Rep. Erin Murphy Faces Endless Barriers to Expanding Contraception Coverage

There's no love for expanding contraception coverage in the Minnesota House.

There's no love for expanding contraception coverage in the Minnesota House.

Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) is on a losing streak.

Last week, Murphy attempted to tack an amendment to a Minnesota House of Representatives higher education bill that would inform college rape victims of the availability of free emergency contraception. She also proposed an amendment to a health and human services bill that would require secular businesses to offer prescription contraception in employee health plans.

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Watch Rep. Erin Murphy's emotional rant on the House floor:

Both measures failed -- a sign, she says, that Republicans' aversion to abortion has spilled over to contraception as well.

"Honestly, it's a little hard for me to grapple with this," a defeated Murphy said on Monday. "In the event that there is a sexual assault on one of Minnesota's college campuses, making information about emergency contraception available to a student is critically important. As a parent, when I look across the legislature at other parents, I don't understand how you could vote against that."

Both provisions were booted during debate, with Reps. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) and Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) questioning the relevancy of contraception to the bills under discussion. The health and human services bill governs health plans' drug coverage; the higher education bill includes an article on how colleges should respond to sexual assault on campus.

Anderson argued that Minnesota hospitals are already required to treat rape victims, and reminding students would somehow cost the state more money.

"Despite what Rep. Murphy says, I have the same parts as her and I pretty much know how it all works," Anderson said in response to Murphy's pleas for empathy. "I'm curious that she didn't have the insight to provide this in the last two years that she was in charge of this place. This does incur a cost."

When the votes were counted, Murphy's amendment to the higher education bill was tossed out. A couple days later, her proposal to expand contraception coverage to employees of nonreligious organizations was likewise stricken from the health and human services bill.

"When it comes to emergency contraception and not just contraception in general, Republicans have really shifted any practical discussion we are having in the legislature about women's health and reproduction," Murphy says of the repeated roadblocks. "It's been a surprise for me."

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