Getting birth control in Oregon became a lot simpler with the new year. Women in the northwestern state no longer have to get a prescription from a doctor for common forms of birth control, as of Friday, and several other states are aiming to follow suit.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the law in July allowing pharmacists to "prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives" to any woman who is at least 18 years old and to a girl under the age of 18 if she has "evidence of a previous prescription from a primary care practitioner or women’s healthcare practitioner." Under the law, pharmacists are forbidden from requiring patients to schedule appointments with them in order to get a prescription for birth control.
At the same time, pharmacists cannot write or dispense prescriptions for women who do not "have evidence" of a visit to a women's health provider within three years of the pharmacist's initial prescription for birth control.
Before they can prescribe patches and pills to women, pharmacists must finish a training program specifically focusing on birth control. And patients have to fill out a questionnaire before they can receive the prescription.
California is expected to follow in Oregon's footsteps in March, with similar rules. Legislators in Colorado and Washington have also proposed allowing pharmacists in those states to prescribe birth control to women.
Although the new laws smooth the path for women to access birth control, a vital preventative health measure, some fear that if women get birth control through pharmacists rather than through doctors, they'll skip other important care, like annual checkups or tests such as pap smears or screenings for cervical cancer. On the flip side, there's concern that some pharmacists may refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control on moral grounds, as such reports have surfaced in at least 25 states, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
"We shouldn't be holding women hostage for them to be getting their birth control," Dr. Alison Edelman, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Oregon Health & Science University, told local ABC channel WKRN. Even if they got their birth control directly from the pharmacy, women still had to be sure to see their doctor for regular screenings, she said, adding, “It’s still incredibly important to get preventative healthcare."