This year Oregon policy makers took serious strides towards expanding women’s access to birth control. Oregon saw two groundbreaking bills go into effect January 1st: House Bill 3343, which says insurers have to pay for a 12-month supply of birth control all at once, and House Bill 2879 which adds pharmacists to the list of people who can prescribe birth control.
Unlike the national debate surrounding contraception, including Republican’s revolt over the Obama administration’s requirement under the Affordable Care Act that health plans pay for contraceptives, the state’s legislative effort was largely a bi-partisan affair. It may be surprising to many that Oregon’s House Bill 2879 was sponsored by Republican state Rep Knute Buehler.
“I feel strongly that this is what’s best for women’s health in the 21st century, and I also feel it will have repercussions for decreasing poverty because one of the key things for women in poverty is unintended pregnancy.” -Rep. Knute Beuhler, R
For many women, these bills will mean that regardless of their ability to access to healthcare they can still prevent unwanted pregnancy. Poor women are often the most vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and the policies seek to eliminate barriers to access.
The first bill allows women to access an entire 12-month supply of birth control at one time, thus eliminating the need for potentially timely, or expensive monthly treks to the pharmacy for monthly prescriptions. As anyone familiar with birth control hormones knows, it is most effective when used regularly, and it’s easy to miss a day or two if the pills for a monthly prescription aren’t available on time.
The second bill allows women to walk into a pharmacy, fill out a questionnaire, and if there are not risk factors, receive a prescription from a pharmacist on site. While many reproductive health groups argue that the ultimate goal should be for women to have access to over-the-counter contraceptives, the ability to receive a prescription from a pharmacist is arguably a reasonable alternative in the present.
California has also passed legislation to grant pharmacists the authority to prescribe contraceptives that has not yet been implemented.