Over-the-counter birth control soon available in CA
Californians interested in obtaining the pill won’t have to wait much longer to do it with ease.
“Under a law expected to go into effect by April, women in California will be able to stop by their neighborhood pharmacy and buy birth control pills without a prescription,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Proponents argue that easing women’s access to birth control will reduce unintended pregnancies, which make up as many as half of all pregnancies nationwide.”
Not everyone cheered the result. “Critics have argued that not requiring a doctors visit to get birth control could reduce the number of women who get tested for STDs and breast cancer,” CBS San Francisco noted. Pro-life advocates have also been uneasy, concerned that allies of abortion providers would use readier birth control access to strengthen their legal and political position.
California’s proximity to Latin American areas affected by the Zika virus, however, spurred Pope Francis to put pro-lifers a bit more at ease. In recent remarks, he “suggested women threatened with the Zika virus could use artificial contraception, saying ‘avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil’ in light of the global epidemic,” the Associated Press reported. “The pope unequivocally rejected abortion as a response to the crisis in remarks Wednesday as he flew home after a five-day trip to Mexico.”
An accelerating trend
With the regulatory changes, the Golden State has positioned itself close to the forefront of a relatively new approach to clearing the use of birth control. “California will become the third state to permit pharmacist-issued birth control once the law, passed in 2013, gains regulatory approval,” the Times observed. “Similar legislation in Oregon was approved last year and enacted in January. Hawaii lawmakers introduced a similar measure last month, and advocates in New Mexico and Alaska say they want to follow suit.” Washington has permitted pharmacist-dispensed birth control for several decades.
The bill behind the law, SB493, was introduced last year by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina. The state pharmacy board had anticipated the law working its way through the Sacramento bureaucracy in time to take effect “as early as Oct. 1,” the Orange County Register reported last June. “The board recently finalized the protocols but they still have to be reviewed by multiple state agencies for legal and budgetary approval.”
Clearing SB493 was not as simple as waving along birth control. The law “also allows pharmacists to prescribe prescription-strength inhalers, gums and lozenges for nicotine addiction, as well as medication for travel abroad, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Along with hormonal contraceptives, these three categories of drugs are considered preventive services for major public health issues,” the Register noted.
Red tape and startups
But a technicality specific to pharmacists’ requirements took an additional toll on getting birth control onto shelves. The approval process “ground to a halt when several doctors and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists questioned whether pharmacists should have to check a woman’s blood pressure, saying the test would be an unnecessary barrier for women,” the Register reported separately last month. “The Obstetricians and Gynecologists group argued that blood pressure can be adequately obtained through self-reporting and that self-reporting would increase access to contraception.”
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley has moved on birth control at a characteristically speedy pace. “At a time when users can summon a meal, a massage or marijuana through a smartphone app, Nurx and fellow San Francisco startup Lemonaid Health, as well as a few other companies, are working to make getting hormonal birth control as easy as requesting an Uber ride,” the San Francisco Chronicle noted. “It’s an evolution of telemedicine to simplify access to some standard prescription drugs, a system designed to appeal to younger people already accustomed to on-demand gratification.”
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