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Finally, Some US Women Can Buy the Pill Without Prescription

Photograph by Twenty20

Women in California and Oregon will soon be treated like the grown-ass people they are. Lawmakers have made it legal for women to buy birth control pills without a prescription.

The new law means thousands of women will be able to access one of the most reliable and affordable methods of birth control without having to schedule (and pay for) a doctor's appointment. Since the Pill went on the market decades ago, women have had to get a prescription from a doctor, not only to begin using it but often also to get regular refills—despite the fact that the Pill has been shown to be, like most other over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, universally safe.

In Oregon, women can already pick up the Pill over the counter. In March, California women and teens will be able to as well.

Newsweek reporter Jessica Firwell calls this "a bold move," coming at a time when U.S. and state lawmakers and politicians have made moves to defund Planned Parenthood and to restrict access to contraception in general. Moreover, a provision in the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, that mandates coverage of contraceptives' costs is under attack.

Research has shown that the fewer barriers women have to accessing contraception, the more likely they are to use is. A study published last year in Contraception found that 21 percent of low-income women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy would be more likely to use the pill if it were available without requiring a doctor's visit for a prescription. More accessible birth control has also been found to reduce abortion rates.

The new laws don't, however, address another access issue—that of cost. Mandating coverage and defraying the cost of the Pill has sen essential is upping the number of women who use it.

Another report finds making birth control more accessible to women also reduces abortion rates. Both of these studies suggest that defraying the cost of birth control is an essential step to increasing the number of women who use it. However, these new laws don't address the issue of keeping out-of-pocket costs low for all women, especially those who are not covered by insurance.

The two states' laws vary in their approach to opening access. In Oregon, licensed pharmacists much undergo training before they are allowed to sell hormonal birth control to women. The women must also prove they have a primary care physician for follow-up.

In California, where the bill was signed into law three years ago and goes into effect this spring, customers have to fill out a questionnaire and have their blood pressure taken before the pharmacist may prescribe the contraception.

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