Access To Birth Control In Oregon Just Got Easier: New Law Allows Pharmacists To Prescribe Contraception, First Among States

Women of legal age in Oregon can now bypass their doctor and have a pharmacist prescribe birth control pills.

As part of a wave of new laws, New Year’s Day 2016 marked the first time a state ever approved a bill that allows a pharmacy to serve as an alternative source and pathway for contraception, this according to a UPI News report.

The new law in Oregon allows easier access to birth control pills without certain complex elements and constraints inherent in a doctor’s visit. The new legislation covers two parts.

The first involves the pharmacy addition. It allows a registered pharmacist the right to prescribe hormonal contraception pills that will still be subsidized by insurance carriers. Before the new 2016 Oregon laws went into effect, doctors and nurse practitioners were the only providers of birth control.

The second provision involves a mandate for private carriers. According to KPTV, the new law requires insurance companies to cover the costs of Oregon birth control prescriptions for a full year.

Although routine doctor visits are no longer needed under the new legislation, wellness and “preventive health care” visits with their physician are recommended. Dr. Alison Edelman of OHSU weighed in on the new Oregon birth control law.

“Just having birth control accessible through a pharmacist doesn’t mean preventive health care isn’t important. That’s not what this law is saying. It is really allowing increased access to women for something that’s incredibly safe and a really big need for women.”

“It’s still incredibly important to get preventive health care, even if you’re getting your medications directly from a pharmacist, your birth control directly from a pharmacist.”

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, an advocate for women’s health, spearheaded efforts to pass the bill. She signed it in July, and the law became effective on Friday. However, her signature doesn’t mean the process is cut and dried for all women; it still involves a small degree of red tape and discretion.

Pharmacists must be trained and certified in the new rules for someone seeking birth control without a doctor’s prescription must complete a questionnaire. This information serves as the basis for approval, and if things don’t “check out,” the request can be denied. The attending pharmacist can still deny the application based on religion, but the patient must be referred to another source for the prescription.

The new law says a woman seeking pills for birth control in Oregon must be 18 years of age. If not, the order must come from a medical doctor. However, sources say that under the new law, the mandate will drop in the coming years.

The largest fear among lawmakers and providers is that an underage female won’t schedule preventive checkups like pap smears if they can just use the pharmacy option. The danger is the increased risk of women and young girls unknowingly walking around with potentially deadly conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC), cervical cancer is one of the easiest diseases to diagnose, prevent, and treat with regularly scheduled OB-GYN visits.

With the passage of this new law on birth control, the state of Oregon leads the way for women’s healthcare autonomy. Reportedly, lawmakers in California and Washington are lobbying for similar laws in their states.

[Image via: Twitter screenshot]