Birth control in Oregon will be among the most easily accessed contraceptives in the U.S. if two bills in the state legislature get signed into law. Both were approved Tuesday by lawmakers, with House Bill 3343 requiring health insurance providers to cover birth control for 12 months at a time, and HB 2879 allowing women to purchase birth control at the pharmacy without a prescription.
HB 3343 passed unanimously in the state Senate, and HB 2879 passed the House 50-10. Both are widely expected to be signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat. Republican state Rep. Knute Buehler introduced HB 2879 with bipartisan support. The bill, which would go into effect Jan. 1, requires women to pass a self-administered risk-screening assessment and for patients younger than 18 to see a doctor before getting birth control for the first time.
"It makes no sense that men should have unrestricted access to contraceptives, while women must first get a prescription from their physician. As a doctor, I believe birth control should be as easy and accessible as possible. If a woman wants to purchase birth control at her local pharmacy, she should be able to do that without having to schedule an appointment with a doctor," Buehler said in a statement, according to the Statesman Journal.
The Republican lawmaker behind the contraceptive bill on why it makes sense for Oregon women: Rep. Knute Buehler, a… http://t.co/DJ9N0l31do
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"There is a long history of pharmacists prescribing in Oregon, which is unique compared to other states," he said to Reuters.
California passed a similar bill in 2013 broadening birth control access through pharmacist prescriptions, but the bill included a number of administrative measures that ultimately limited its scope, according to the Associated Press. That policy has not yet been implemented.
HB 3343, which would allow women to collect a 12-month supply of contraceptives in a single visit to a pharmacy and would require private insurers to cover it, was designed to increase the effectiveness of birth control by minimizing the number of missed pills.
"Prescriptive contraceptives are highly effective and an important part of family planning for many Oregonians, but they need to be used consistently," said Democratic state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward in a press release, according to the Statesman Journal. "Ensuring that women have access to 12 continuous months of birth control will improve consistent use and better serve women juggling demanding schedules."
While the bill requiring insurers to cover 12-month prescriptions for birth control in a single visit is already set to arrive on the governor's desk, the Oregon Catholic Conference planned to oppose HB 2879 as it passed through the state Senate.
"Is there an unexamined assumption that expanded access to birth control is a good thing?" Oregon Catholic Conference spokesman Todd Cooper asked, reported the Associated Press. "Will this encourage sexual activity on the part of young girls and boys? And what are the consequences of that?"
Overall, both bills, regardless of whether they go into effect, buck the national trend.
"What we see in Oregon is unusual," Elizabeth Nash, policy analyst with the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for family planning and abortion access, told Reuters. More U.S. states are restricting rather than expanding access to birth control, Nash said, and no other state requires insurance companies to pay for a 12-month contraceptive supply.