On January 1, the state of Oregon officially became the first in the nation to allow women to purchase hormonal contraception directly from a pharmacist, without a doctor’s prescription. The move is the goal of many doctors and medical associations, who say that easier access to birth control is key to improving women’s health and reducing poverty.
The new law will allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control to women older than 18, but women under that age will need a pervious prescription.
Oregon’s legislature passed the law in 2015, making Oregon the first state in the United States to allow such purchases, but California is reportedly about to follow suit with its own version of the law.
The law came into effect as of January 1, and women living in Oregon can now receive birth control pills from pharmacists, which means they do not need to see a doctor each time they need a refill. The pharmacist can now sell birth control pills after they fill a pre-set questionnaire and qualify for the pills.
Pharmacists who will be giving these prescriptions will have to attend a compulsory training session before being allowed to dispense the pills, and women wishing to obtain the pills will be required to fill out a questionnaire before the new prescription is given. According to the law, pharmacists are permitted to refuse the prescriptions due to religious reasons, but they should refer the person to seek prescription from some other location. Women will have to complete the questionnaire at the pharmacy, in which trained pharmacists will evaluate the person’s overall health, based on the answers supplied by the customer.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the typical American woman wants two children. To achieve this goal, they must use contraceptives for roughly three decades. Among American women who use contraceptives, the largest percentage uses the pill to prevent pregnancy; however, more than half also identify with non-contraceptive health benefits, such as treatment for excessive menstrual bleeding, menstrual pain, and acne as reasons for use, wrote the Organization in its website.
“Just having birth control accessible through a pharmacist doesn’t mean preventative 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,” said Dr. Alison Edelman of Oregon Health and Science University to KOIN.
Regular visits to an OB-GYN are still recommended for women in light of the new law, which some worry will discourage younger citizens from check-ups. cervical cancer is the most preventable form of cancer of the reproductive system and can be prevented by consistent doctor visits.
Many doctors applauded the effort, saying the efficiency of the process will encourage more women to seek contraception. New guidelines recommend that women be screened for cervical cancer every three years, rather than every year, making it less important to bring patients into the office, they say.
“There’s a growing body of evidence that there isn’t a safety concern,” researcher and University of California at San Francisco professor Daniel Grossman told the Seattle Times.