New laws in California and Oregon will make it easier for women to get birth control. The two states are preparing to allow pharmacists to prescribe contraception without a doctor’s Rx.
In the next few months, women in California and Oregon will have this more convenient and possibly less expensive option than going to the doctor, The New York Times reports.
To be prescribed, women will undergo a quick screening process with their pharmacist using a questionnaire about their health and medical histories. If they are approved, they will receive contraceptive pills, rings or patches, according to Newser, and all of the contraceptives will still be covered by insurance.
The laws in the two states differ some. There is not a minimum age for the law in California. However, teens younger than 18 will have to see their doctor to receive their first contraceptive in Oregon. And in California, pharmacists will likely have to take women’s blood pressure to prescribe contraceptives containing estrogen.
Dr. Stanwood of Physicians for Reproductive Health said the states are “incubators, which may end up being a model at the national level.” She added that “we need to think outside of that old-fashioned box that just doesn’t apply to women’s lives now.”
The new laws are the latest efforts in making birth control more accessible, a longtime goal of policy makers and medical professionals. And these efforts have been pretty free of political hostility, unlike other recent debates.
“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,” said Knute Buehler, State Representative and Republican sponsor of Oregon’s law.
According to NY Times, almost half of the 6.6 million pregnancies annually in the U.S. are unintended.
Nevertheless, some groups who think birth control should be totally over-the-counter are worried that pharmacist-prescribed contraception could be bad in the long run. “There should be nobody between the patient and the pill,” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists President told the NY Times.
If total OTC does happen, it’ll likely be a while due to long FDA approval processes. And it could come with large costs. The Affordable Care Act does not require plans to cover the over-the-counter medications, so women could end up paying hundreds of dollars for OTC birth control instead of getting it free with a prescription.
There was a bill introduced in Congress in May by Republican senators that could speed up the process in which contraceptive manufacturers apply to the FDA for OTC approval, but some groups claim it will reduce birth control use because of the possible lack of insurance coverage.