Women in California can now pick up birth control at their local pharmacies without a doctor's prescription.
The law officially went into effect last Friday, but some pharmacies need more time to prepare before they can offer the new services.
This means women won't need to go to a doctor to get a prescription for birth control. Instead, they can go to a local pharmacy and ask a pharmacist for the contraceptive.
Dr. Alison Block, a family medicine physician in northern California and member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, explained to Elite Daily it's not technically over-the-counter birth control. You still have to go to the pharmacist, ask for it and fill out a basic checklist.
Now, birth control pills, the patch, the ring and Depo-Provera injections are available without a prescription in California. Other forms of contraceptives like the IUD and implant, which need to be put into the body, still need to be obtained from a doctor.
This is a major move by California legislators to help increase access to contraceptives.
Getting a prescription from a doctor can be difficult for many women. This is especially true for young women and women who live in underserved areas. Block said:
It's removing a significant number of those barriers.
This new law is extra helpful for women seeking combined hormonal forms of contraceptives, like the pill. Some women may not be good candidates for long-acting reversible contraceptives for a number of reasons, and this will help serve them as well.
As Block explained, women can still go to a doctor, talk about the various options and get a prescription. Women are not discouraged from going to their doctors -- they're just now offered a new option. Block said:
I think it definitely vastly increases access.
When similar laws were proposed in other states, there were concerns that making birth control over-the-counter would disqualify it from being covered by insurance and make it more difficult to obtain.
But with the law in California, where it's not technically over-the-counter, birth control is still covered by insurance. Block said:
Under the Affordable Care Act, all prescriptions for birth control are covered under insurance, regardless of whether that prescription is provided by a physician or a pharmacist. Ultimately, the best access would be if these methods were available truly over-the-counter rather than behind the counter with the pharmacist, but that would pose unique challenges for insurance coverage. This service allows all birth control methods to be covered by insurance, just as they are when prescribed in the doctor's office.
This is great news for many California women, who now have more power to make important planning decisions about their lives and their bodies.
Citations: Los Angeles Times