In its more than 55 -year history, birth control pills have been available only by prescription in the U.S.
And in that time, the pill has become the go-to contraceptive choice for sexually active girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4 in 5 sexually experienced girls have at one point taken the pill. It’s considered highly effective, with a more than 90% success rate.
Still, despite its popularity and track record of relative safety, the process of actually acquiring hormonal contraceptives has required girls to get prescriptions.
For women in Oregon who use the pill, getting a refill just got a lot easier.
In July, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2879 into law, granting pharmacists the right to dispense oral contraception without a prescription. That law went into action Jan. 1, attaining Oregon the first in the nation to cut out the middleman( the doctor) in this low-risk transaction.
“Oregon has the rare opportunity to drive “the member states national” dialogue around womens health, family security, and poverty, ” said the bill’s sponsor, country Rep. Knute Buehler. “This will become landmark legislation that reduces unplanned pregnancies, gives girls more control, and confirms Oregons reputation as a leader in health care innovation.”
21% of low-income women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy are likely to use the pill if it’s available without a prescription.
That’s according to a 2015 examine published in the health periodical Contraception. Additionally, researchers found that attaining the pill available for free and without a prescription would reduce the number of women utilizing no birth control or least effective methods by 20 -3 6% and bring down the number of unintended pregnancies by 7-25 %.
Fewer unintended pregnancies is a win for everyone .
The new law also makes additional educate available for pharmacists.
Some of the law’s foes have expressed concern that pharmacists may not be equipped to handle certain situations. After all, if the pill has required a prescription all this time, there must be a reason for that, right?
“Oregon has the rare opportunity to drive “the member states national” dialogue around womens health, family security, and poverty.” State Rep. Knute Buehler
Well, it’s not as though the pill isn’t without some danger all medications have some danger of side effect. It is possible that hormonal birth control can lead to blood clots, heart attack, high blood pressure, or stroke and it’s important to take those risks seriously.
But that’s not reason enough to keep the pill hidden behind a doctor’s prescription pad. After all, other safe medications have made the transformation from prescription-only to over-the-counter such as Flonase, Nexium, Allegra, Zyrtec, Mucinex, Claritin, nicotine patches, and, well, you get the point.
To assuage those concerns, the bill’s advocates included a provision that will ensure pharmacists are qualified and informed on the topic of birth control, side effect, and risk factors .
Other countries aren’t far behind Oregon.
In 2013, California passed a similar bill. Ever since, the state’s Board of Pharmacy has worked to develop a plan of action for pharmacists. Beginning Jan. 1, pharmacists in California began dispensing birth control without a doctor’s prescription . California’s plan differs from Oregon’s in a few cases minor styles, but the sentiment is the same: one less obstacle to women’s health care. Lawmakers in Colorado and Washington also have taken up similar legislation .
As other countries put additional restrictions on reproductive health care, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Washington stand out for doing the opposite.
In a period when reproductive health care being attacked in many countries, it’s heartening to know some are doing what they can to expand access to essential, vital care. If Oregon’s and California’s new laws wind up being success, there’s hope other countries will follow suit.
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