California finalized legislation last week that would allow women to obtain self-administered hormonal birth control without a prescription from their doctors. More accessible medication is a great step forward toward national reform that the country needs.
Signed into law in October 2013, SB 493 sought to expand pharmacists’ responsibilities by allowing them to “furnish self-administered hormonal contraception,” according to the bill. The legislation was meant to roll out a few months after the law passed, but it wasn’t until last Friday that California women were able to take advantage of the law.
Pharmacist-regulated birth control has been available to women in Washington state, Washington D.C. and Oregon. California has joined these states in offering birth control at pharmacies.
In 2011, nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies were unintended, a striking 36 percent of all pregnancies in every U.S. state, according to studies from the New England Journal of Medicine and the Guttmacher Institute.
With the number of unintended births in 2010 totaling 1.5 million, public insurance programs paid for 68 percent of these births, compared to 38 percent of those planned, according to the Guttmacher.
Prior to the legislation, women could only receive birth control as prescribed by their physician. SB 493 removes that obstacle by eliminating the need for a physician’s order unless women choose to use birth control that must be administered by a doctor, such as an intrauterine device or an injection.
For all other options, such as the pill and the patch, a pharmacist now needs to give an assessment prior to the patient receiving any medication and a quick consultation.
California is right in allowing women to take control of their reproductive health by providing assurance that they have the decision of whether a child is wanted or not.
Moreover, obtaining birth control should be easier than what was newly banned.
The woman’s choice whether or not a child can be prevented is still being restricted by having to consult with the pharmacist.
The nation has been able to make exceptions for emergency contraceptives; women do not need a prescription for emergency birth control and can purchase the medication over-the-counter.
If emergency contraceptives can be bought over-the-counter, then so should birth control.
21 percent of low-income women at risk for unintended pregnancies are likely to use oral contraceptives if they were available without a prescription, according to the Contraception Journal, an international reproductive health organization. Removing this barrier could greatly increase the use of effective birth control methods and thus reduce unintended pregnancies.
It should be within a woman’s own grasp to determine if she needs birth control, but with the tangle of red tape surrounding the issue, it seems the nation still has a long way to go in terms of total accessibility.
The final say comes down to the regulations enforced by the FDA. The FDA must authorize birth control as a form of medicine that should be available over-the-counter. Until then, the physician’s and pharmacist’s hands are tied.
Birth control should be medication that is truly over-the-counter. By making it so, the nation will give women the ultimate right to take control of their own reproduction life.