Women in Oregon can buy birth control pills and patches at a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription under a new law that took effect January 1.
The law allows pharmacists to write hormonal birth control prescriptions to women who are at least 18 and who pass a risk-assessment screening.
Oregon is the first state in the country to implement such a law, which Gov. Kate Brown signed in July 2015. The law passed through Oregon’s Democratic-majority house and state senate.
Health-care providers argue there’s no need for a doctor’s prescription, and that a simple screening like the one Oregon requires is sufficient.
“There’s a growing body of evidence that there isn’t a safety concern,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times. “There are studies showing that women can really accurately identify the conditions that make it appropriate to use certain contraceptives, using a simple checklist.”
The birth control pill is extremely popular, with the Guttmacher Institute reporting that U.S. women rely on the pill more than any other contraceptive method.
Dr. Alison Edelman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, told KOIN6 the Oregon law offers “increased access to women for something that’s incredibly safe and a really big need for women.”
Medical professionals see an increase in access to birth control as instrumental to reducing the nation’s continued high rate of unintended pregnancies. Leading groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have backed removing the prescription requirement to make hormonal contraception available over the counter, but the Oregon law doesn’t go that far.
Under the law, teens younger than 18 will need a doctor’s prescription. Prescribing pharmacists must complete a training program approved by the State Board of Pharmacy.
California’s Democratic-controlled legislature approved a similar law, without age restrictions, that’s expected to take effect in March, as BuzzFeed reported. Colorado and Washington have both introduced versions of Oregon’s law.