Over-The-Counter Birth Control Empowers Women And Pharmacists In Oregon And California

Over-the-counter birth control is coming to Oregon and California. There's an enactment of new laws on the horizon that will allow pharmacists to prescribe certain medications to their customers. Among these medications is birth control. According to Medical Daily, these two states will be the first to allow pharmacists to expand their services to in-store customers.

With the approach of offering over-the-counter birth control, it's hopeful that the rate of unintended pregnancies will decrease while making contraception more accessible.

"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 State Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Oregon), who sponsored the Oregon bill.

The new method of prescription in each state very similar to what's occurring in Oregon and California, but Oregon's law will allow pharmacists to prescribe the pill and the patch to women who're over the age of 18 without a prior prescription from a doctor, and requiring one for women under 18.

Oregon pharmacists are required to undergo a training period before selling over-the-counter birth control. California pharmacists must have extensive training, but "in exchange will be able to perform a wide range of medical services such as prescribing cessation aids for quitting smoking and medications for traveling abroad; administering routine vaccinations to children aged 3 and older; and ordering laboratory tests, among others," the report says.

Both Oregon and California require women to undergo a simple screening by the pharmacist before they're provided with birth control. California's law will request they take the woman's blood pressure if their contraceptive contains estrogen. Prescriptions will be covered by insurance regardless of where they're coming from.

California has more complexities than Oregon in regards to the over-the-counter birth control. The Oregon law will be implemented on January 1, while California's will be implemented sometime next year.

As a side note, another Oregon law will require insurers to cover a 12-month supply of birth control in addition to the 30-day and 60-day batches prescribed currently.

Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, worries that new laws might interfere with making additional contraceptives widely available for over-the-counter.

"My basic tenet is there should be nobody between the patient and the pill," DeFrancesco said. "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."

Another concern is that the ease in obtaining birth control without a doctor's prescription will lead to more women not going in for regular physicals and cancer screenings. With Oregon's law, however, that's not likely to be a problem because pharmacists won't be permitted to refill over-the-counter birth control to a woman who hasn't seen her doctor in the three years following their first dose of birth control.

According to New York Times, about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States are unintended.

If Oregon and California's over-the-counter birth control law proves successful, other states are likely to follow their lead.

A New Mexico proposal failed in 2012, but is expected to be reviewed again in light of the Oregon and California measures, said Dale Tinker, the executive director of the New Mexico Pharmacists Association.

Moreover, the grocery store and pharmacy chain, Raley's, is pushing Nevada to do the same thing as California with over-the-counter birth control (the chain has 80 stores in Northern California and 16 in Nevada).

After several studies and analysis on this front, it's been determined by many reproductive experts that this is a safe way to go because women can assess their needs for contraceptives accurately on a checklist.

[Photo Credit: Daniela Alejandra Robles via Wikimedia Commons/Cropped & Resized/CC BY-SA 3.0]