New laws in the states of California and Oregon will allow women access to birth control treatments by obtaining them directly from the pharmacist, without prescription. These women will be able to get hormonal contraceptives, such as pills, patches, and rings, in a more convenient and less expensive way than going to a doctor.

Pharmacists will prescribe contraceptives after a quick process, in which women would fill out a survey, about their health and medical histories. Contraceptives will continue to be covered by insurance.

California and Oregon will now allow women to buy different contraceptive methods without a doctor’s prescription. Credit:

“There are studies showing that women can really accurately identify the conditions that make it appropriate to use certain contraceptives, using a simple checklist,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, from the University of California.

However, some people argue that going to a doctor for getting contraceptive pills gives them the opportunity to check on their health, although statistics show that women already visit doctors on their own for getting Pap smears and cancer screening tests.

This is the result of the latest efforts made by medical professionals, and policy makers, to make birth control accessible, and unlike other contraceptive issues, the debate about this one have been away from political coverage.

Knute Buehler, State Representative from Oregon who sponsored the law, stated that he believes this is the best for women now, as he thinks this will also have good consequences on reducing poverty. Buehler said that unintended pregnancy is one of the major reasons for poverty, according to the NY Times. Statistics demonstrate that almost 3 million pregnancies annually in the U.S. are unintended, a bigger rate than Europe’s.

Going one step beyond

However, reproductive health groups and medical associations insist on what they believe should be the ultimate goal: making contraceptives free of any type of prescription. For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the law, arguing that there shouldn’t be any barrier between the patient and the contraceptive.

Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the organization, stated that he is afraid of creating a model that would continue to make difficult for women to get these contraceptives. Nonetheless, people supporting contraceptives being over the counter are aware of the long time that would take to get the approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another drawback against over-the-counter sales is the cost. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t specifically require covering these medications, so it would mean high expenses for women.

A bill introduced in Congress last May by Republicans would accelerate the process in which contraceptives apply to the FDA over-the-counter approval, although some experts say it would reduce birth control due to the uncertainty on insurance coverage for these medications. On the other hand, Democrats introduced a bill that says that contraceptive would remain covered if they were totally free of prescription.

People and organizations supporting the over-the-counter initiative are planning to lobby for it across the U.S. “We are actively going to come up with a statute to spread to other states, and I think it can spread pretty quickly,” said Mr. Buehler, the Oregon legislator, to the NY Times. Pharmacy representatives from Arizona and Idaho were in a recent meeting in Oregon to get familiar about these rules.

Nevertheless, laws in Oregon and California have some differences. California has no age restriction, but Oregon’s require teenagers under 18 obtain their first prescription from a doctor. In California, pharmacists will have to  test the blood pressure for contraceptives containing estrogen.

Source: NY Times