By Leslie Muir /// Opinion Editor
Women in Ore. and Calif. are now the first in the nation to be able to acquire birth control medication from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription. The new law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, gives pharmacists the ability to write prescriptions for various hormonal birth control medications including pills, rings and patches. This means that women can bypass the trip to the doctor’s office, a sometimes time consuming and expensive process, and, after a consultation with a pharmacist, can leave the pharmacy with a filled prescription for birth control medication.
For Lewis & Clark students over the age of 18, this allows for a wide range of contraceptive material to be available without making an appointment with LC Student Health Services or visiting an off-campus doctor. Those under 18 will still have to obtain their first prescription for birth control from a doctor before receiving it at a pharmacy. The New York Times reports that all forms of birth control available through this avenue will be covered by the Affordable Care Act, although women should consult the pharmacy about whether they accept their form of insurance.
For LC students, this nearest pharmacy could be just a Pio ride away. For those who feel uncomfortable attending a health screening on campus at the Student Health Services to receive a prescription, this new law allows them to visit a nearby pharmacy to fulfill the same need. Just as receiving a prescription through campus services may cost different amounts depending on what insurance coverage the patient has, the cost of this medication will vary depending on what insurance the individual pharmacy accepts. The pharmacy at Burlingame Fred Meyer reports that trained pharmacists will begin prescribing birth control in July, while other local pharmacies will begin the new practice over the next few months. It is recommended that women find out whether their pharmacy currently provides birth control prescriptions and what insurance they are able to accept before visiting.
Birth control supporters Lusi Lukova ’18 and Kalea Lee-Fleishman ’18 see this new law as a large step towards providing widely available, over-the-counter access to women’s birth control. Lukova expressed excitement about the possibility for easier access.
“This law takes away the pressure women sometimes feel around getting birth control,” Lukova said.
For Lee-Fleishman, the law is seen as something that could have already happened.
“[The law] is such a good idea, it should have already been in place,” Lee-Fleishman said.
Praise was also awarded by women’s advocacy groups on campus and in the greater Portland area, such as the LC Feminist Student Union (FSU) and Planned Parenthood of Oregon.
“The FSU is really excited about the legislation that has been passed in Oregon concerning birth control. Anytime that people are able to have more control over their medical choices and bodies it is a cause to celebrate,” FSU member Abbey Griscom ’17 said.
Along with this new legislation, Oregon also became the first state to require insurers to cover and provide 12 months of birth control prescriptions at one time.
“Oregon is now the easiest place in the nation for women to access birth control,” said Republican State Representative Knute Buehler in a statement on the two laws.
Opponents of the bill, as interviewed by The Oregonian, argue that allowing a patient to receive birth control without a doctor’s examination may result in undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections and cases of uterine and cervical cancers.
Some healthcare professionals believe the benefits outweigh the risks. According to Student Health Services Nurse Practitioner Nancy Kalvelage, having more opportunities for women to access birth control allows women to be healthier in general.
“This law promotes women’s health by providing choice,” Kalvelage said. “Would I still like to see [them] in my office to talk about health? Of course! But it is an amazing thing to simply have options available, and on behalf of women, I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
In addition to Oregon pharmacies, birth control prescriptions can currently be obtained at the LC Student Health Service. Free condoms, lubricants and Plan B pills are available at the FSU.