Advocates hope the new system will soon spread across the country,
Two western states will soon allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control to women without them having to previously get a prescription from a doctor, says an article on nytimes.com.
Women in California and Oregon will be able to complete a questionnaire about their health and medical history, present the information to a pharmacist and receive contraceptives, such as birth control pills, patches and rings.
The new law is part of a effort to make contraceptives more affordable and more convenient to women, as the states are struggling with increasing rates of unintended pregnancies. The contraceptives would still be covered by insurance plans, as they are today.
According to the article, about half of the annual pregnancies in the United States are unintended, a number approaching 3.3 million.
Reproductive groups and medical associations are hoping to reach their ultimate goal of having contraception available over the counter, without any prescription or questionnaire at all. The push is to make contraception readily available and reduce costs to the individuals in hopes the pregnancy rates will fall.
Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said his basic tenet was there should be nobody between the patient and the pill. He adds he fears the new law might create a new barrier that may stop the over-the-counter movement.
Those who favor over-the-counter contraception acknowledge that it may be some time in becoming a reality, in that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that oversees such changes, would require additional studies to be done before granting approval, and that may take a while.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not specifically say that over-the-counter contraception has to be covered by insurance, and that could result in patients with insurance plans actually having to pay a lot more to use the over-the-counter versions.
Advocates of the new law say they plan to lobby other states to adopt a similar proposals, and they say they expect the new system to spread quickly across the nation. Many reproductive groups are supporting the law, saying they believe the pharmacists can safely provide the contraception after assessing a woman’s health on the questionnaire.
Opponents, however, say the doctor’s visit isn’t just for contraception. Many other vitals are checked during a visit to the doctor, including cancer screenings, and problems can be detected early and resolved. The worry is that many women will forego their checkups in favor of the convenience of the pharmacy.