Birth Control Access Expanded in Two States that Authorize Pharmacists to Prescribe Contraceptives

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
(photo: Getty Images)

Women in California and Oregon will soon be able to obtain birth control by seeing a pharmacist instead of a doctor.


Supporters of the laws adopted in both states say the change will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, which number around 3 million annually in the United States, by making it easier and cheaper for women to purchase birth control. Women will only have to fill out a questionnaire about their health and medical history in order to receive contraception at a pharmacy.


“I feel strongly that this is what’s best for women’s health in the 21st century, and I also feel it will have repercussions for decreasing poverty because one of the key things for women in poverty is unintended pregnancy,” state Representative Knute Buehler, a Republican who sponsored Oregon’s law, told The New York Times.


Some medical professionals say the new laws don’t go far enough. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists prefers that birth control be available over the counter, cutting both pharmacists and doctors out of the process. “My basic tenet is there should be nobody between the patient and the pill,” Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the organization, told the Times. “I’m afraid we’re going to create a new model that becomes a barrier between that and over the counter. I worry that it’s going to derail the over-the-counter movement.”


Democrats and Republicans in Congress have introduced competing measures that would speed up the process for the Food and Drug Administration to approve female birth control for over-the-counter status.


However, making birth control available without a prescription of any kind might have the effect of making it more difficult for women to obtain. Most insurance plans cover prescriptions for birth control, but don’t pay for over-the-counter products.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

States Lead Effort to Let Pharmacists Prescribe Birth Control (by Pam Belluck and Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)

Catholic Business Takes over Hospitals and Orders Affiliated Doctors to Stop Prescribing Birth Control (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Administration Seeks Compromise in Heated Emergency Contraceptive Debate (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Aaron Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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