Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Let Pharmacies Prescribe Birth Control

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Let Pharmacies Prescribe Birth Control

Article excerpt

Back in 1933, Rep. Walter Pierce of Oregon introduced a bill in Congress to let doctors discuss birth control with their patients. The need for such a bill showed how controversial the subject was. But this was the heart of the Great Depression, when impoverished Americans could barely feed the children they had. Oregon, along with California, is again ahead of the curve in promoting women's access to contraceptives. Both states will soon let pharmacists dispense the pill, patches and other hormonal contraceptives without a doctor's prescription. This is a major advance for the following reasons:

* Logistics. Needing a prescription from a physician requires having a physician. Many women don't, and those who do must often wait for appointments. Or they may have had a recent checkup and want birth control without going through the other unpleasant procedures in a gynecologist's office.

* Cost. It's a cheaper way to obtain birth control.

* Convenience. The United States has a very high percentage of unintended pregnancies. Many are the result of women being unwilling to jump through the hoops to secure birth control before having sex. The hurdles of convenience, cost and logistics are higher for poor women.

Please spare us the lectures on personal responsibility. The objective here is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Some argue that these state laws don't go far enough in "freeing" the pill. They want it sold over the counter just like aspirin and toothpaste.

Hormonal contraceptives are already sold over the counter in much of the world - in nearly all of Asia and Latin America and in most of Africa. A prescription is still required in Canada and in western Europe, with the interesting exception of Portugal.

One can argue for requiring some sort of prescription, at least for the time being. Health insurance generally doesn't cover over- the-counter medications but will pay for prescribed contraceptives. The federal Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, takes forever to approve over-the-counter medications (another problem that needs fixing). …

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