California pharmacists can give birth control to women without a prescription from their doctor. A new law that allows drug stores to directly provide prescription contraceptives went into effect last week. The new option is intended to reduce unintended pregnancies. State legislators originally passed the law in 2013 but it was held up in regulatory discussions until Friday.
The new California law gives pharmacists the ability to dispense hormonal contraceptives that women can administer themselves, including transdermal, vaginal and injection prescription birth control methods, according to The Street.
“There are no restrictions for women to get birthcontrol from their pharmacist,” said Jon Roth, CEO of California Pharmacists Association. “The only restriction would be if, during the medical screening, the pharmacist determins a contraindication clinically.” In that case, he says, patients would be referred back to their doctor for further evaluation.
But it’s not a simple over-the counter process. Women requesting birth control will have to complete a health questionnaire, and a pharmacist will also consult with the patient about the most suitable form of birth control.
If the contraceptive requested poses a high blood pressure risk, the woman’s blood pressure must be taken before a prescription is issued. Women still need to see a doctor to get an IUD or a contraceptive implant since they require a medical procedure to be administered.
“Community pharmacies are the face of neighborhood health care — open beyond normal business hours, and patients do not need an appointment to see their pharmacist,” Roth said. “That means pharmacists providing contraception will go a long way to expand women’s birth control.”
California joined Oregon as the only states that allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. The law covers self-administered hormonal birth control, which means pills, patches, injections and vaginal rings. Anything a doctor would have to insert, such as arm implants and intrauterine devices, or IUDs, you can’t get from a pharmacist.
A pharmacist will take your blood pressure and then ask you to fill out a questionnaire to make sure birth control is safe for you. Then you can ask for a certain kind of birth control, or the pharmacist can recommend one.
Critics say the new law sends the wrong message to teenage girls by allowing them to more easily get contraceptives. “They say it’s for women, but they mean anyone,” including teenage girls, California Right to Life spokeswoman Camille Giglio said. “The ability to get contraceptives from yet another source is not a benefit to young people,” she added. “It is a barrier to communication between a mother and a child.”