Over-the-counter birth control now available in Oregon

Oregon is the first state in the country to implement this law, and California plans to do the same.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon women no longer need to go to their doctor to get a prescription for birth control as of Jan 1

“Just having birth control accessible through a pharmacist doesn’t mean preventative health care isn’t important. That’s not what this law is saying,” said Dr. Alison Edelman of OHSU. She supports the new law, which “is really allowing increased access to women for something that’s incredibly safe and a really big need for women.”

In July, Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a bill allowing women to purchase birth control without a doctor’s prescription. On January 1, that expanded access takes effect.

Oregon is the first state in the country to implement this law, and California plans to do the same. US senators in Colorado and Washington have both introduced versions of Oregon’s new law.

Women who are at least 18 will be able to go to an Oregon pharmacy, fill out a special health questionnaire. If everything looks good, the pharmacist will give them a prescription.

Women under 18 will need a doctor’s prescription before they can get pharmacist-provided birth control, though that regulation will go away in a few years under the law.

Also on Jan. 1, women in Oregon will be able to get a year-long supply of birth control pills at one time as insurance companies are required to cover a full year under a new law.

A pharmacist can refuse to prescribe birth control for religious reasons, but they must refer a patient somewhere else.

Dr. Edelman said there is fear from providers that women and younger women won’t come in for their preventative check-ups if they can get their birth control through a pharmacist..

“Really, they’re 2 different things we’re addressing,” she said. “Obviously we try to hit all of those in one visit, but really we shouldn’t be holding women hostage for them to be getting their birth control.”

The CDC says cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow up.

Pap tests are recommended every 3 years for average-risk women between the ages of 21 and 29. It’s also every 3 years for women 30 and older, unless they’re also getting a pap and HPV test. The recommendation in that case is every 5 years.

Dr. Edelman said a visit to your doctor may also include breast screenings, blood pressure screenings and pregnancy planning.

“It’s still incredibly important to get preventative health care,” she said, “even if you’re getting your medications directly from a pharmacist, your birth control directly from a pharmacist.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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