Birth control without prescription: What a time to be alive

Move aside, Obamacare — we have another public health concern. As if birth control wasn’t a hotly debated topic already, now there is a possibility that in the near future some women will have access to birth control without a doctor’s prescription. California will be the second state to pass such a law after Oregon. And it’s about time.

Although purchasing birth control won’t be as simple as buying Advil or cough syrup, it doesn’t require a prescription from a doctor, and pharmacists can now prescribe birth control to women where this law has been enacted. While Oregon has implemented age restrictions for access to birth control, California’s law will not include age restrictions.

The way Oregon has streamlined the process of obtaining birth control is relatively simple and time efficient, which is good because, in some cases, time is of the essence. The woman completes a questionnaire, which allows the pharmacist to guide the patient as to what contraceptive method she should take. According to The New York Times, in Oregon, 200 pharmacists have received training in administering birth control, and even more will undergo training.

Insurance companies that have typically covered birth control will continue to do so; the only additional cost might be the pharmacist’s charge. This bill, if signed into law, will significantly help low-income women who’ve traditionally had limited access to birth control.

So, not only is this approach to birth control cost-effective, but it also addresses a significant public health concern we’ve had in the U.S.: unwanted pregnancies, which have put Planned Parenthood and similar organizations under fire. So there is strong support from the scientific and medical communities regarding this legislation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, believes this law can significantly curtail unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

And many health professionals staunchly believe that birth control administration can be further deregulated by being switched to total over-the-counter access. While many stigmatize birth control pills because of their serious side effects, the side effects of the pain medications we casually take, like nausea and vomiting, are no less severe than that of birth control pills.

Pain relievers are the most prevalent over-the-counter drug and the most abused drugs in the U.S. The fact that such an abused drug remains on the market, while there is still an insistence on keeping birth control limited to women, is hypocritical. Birth control is not a luxury, and, for some women, it is integral to their health, as it also aids in health conditions not related to pregnancy, such as acne, regulating periods and minimizing side effects of endometriosis.

There could be one shortsighted limitation to this legislation, which is that pharmaceutical companies might no longer invest in improving birth control. But, since consumer demand will likely increase due to this law, further innovation and research to create a more efficient birth control pill will become necessary.

So it’s safe to say that this legislation is a win-win for everyone, including feminists, medical professionals and big pharma. But, most importantly, it will be a monumental advantage for women who sincerely need birth control without the fuss and hassle.


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