Oregon lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill allowing women to get birth control prescriptions from a pharmacist instead of a physician, a shift that could vastly expand access to contraceptives throughout the state.
HB 2879, passed this month by the Democratic-majority state senate and house, is one of two Oregon bills approved in June that tackles access to the pill, patch, and ring. The other, HB 3343, will allow people to get a 12-month supply of birth control all at once, instead of the one- or three-month supply that most people receive.
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2879 into law mid-June.
The proposals are meant to address barriers to accessing birth control, which include having to make multiple trips to a pharmacy and waiting hours at a doctor’s office for a new prescription.
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In 2011, more than 13 percent of women delayed getting needed health care because of logistical factors, like long wait times and not having transportation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly two-thirds of women in the nation said in a 2013 survey that they favor making contraceptives available over the counter without a prescription.
Oregon’s birth control access boon comes as many states with GOP-led legislatures work to make contraception less accessible for women. Republican legislators in Colorado recently killed a successful teen pregnancy prevention program that had reduced teenage pregnancies by 40 percent over five years. Many GOP lawmakers in Colorado opposed the program because they mistakenly believe intrauterine devices (IUDs) cause abortion.
Oregon’s HB 2879 would still tie birth control access to a prescription, meaning it still won’t be available over the counter. And pharmacists can only prescribe birth control to minors who have had a previous prescription. Advocates of the proposal say that being able to get a prescription from a pharmacy instead of a primary care doctor or OB-GYN is a crucial distinction and a win for those in favor of expanding birth control access.
“As a doctor, I think birth control should be as easy and accessible as possible,” said one of the measure’s sponsors, Rep. Knute Buehler (R). ”It makes no sense that men have unrestrained access to contraception,” but women don’t.
California is the only other state that has passed a law allowing birth control prescriptions from pharmacists. That law was passed last year but has yet to be fully implemented.