Birth Control

Birth Control Pills Could Be Available Without Doctor's Prescription in Oregon

Proposal would let patients pick up birth control pills at the pharmacy counter.


Sarah Mirk/Flickr

The Oregon legislature is considering a proposal to let pharmacists prescribe birth control pills, thereby obviating the need for a doctor's visit before obtaining oral contraception. The measure, introduced by state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), would allow patients 18 and older to fill out a self-screening tool at the pharmacy counter, get a prescription from the pharmacist, and then pick up their pills all in one easy visit. "It just seemed unreasonable that [pharmacists] can't dispense preventive contraception," Rep. Buehler, who is also a physician, told The Oregonian

Major medical associations agree that there's little risk in making oral contraception available over-the-counter. Buehler's proposal doesn't quite go that far, but removing the requirement to visit a physician for birth control pills is a big step in the right direction. As it stands, women seeking the pill must make regular doctor's visits—usually annual, but sometimes more frequently—in order to get it, even if they've been taking the same medication for years. Requiring this annual permission slip not only wastes women's time and needlessly drives up health care spending, it inhibits responsible family planning. For women without health insurance, a flexible work schedule, etc., seeing a doctor can be prohibitively difficult or expensive. And even when cost isn't an issue, it may takes weeks to get an appointment with a OB-GYN. 

During the 2014 elections, several Republican politicians spoke out in favor of over-the-counter birth control. Women's groups formerly in support of the plan began objecting, insisting that it would undermine the Affordable Care Act's requirement that health insurance plans offer "free" birth control. But even with the contraception mandate in tact, over-the-counter pills could be beneficial by providing options for those who (for whatever reasons) can't or don't want to see a doctor and involve health insurance. 

Since taking office, those GOP champions of open-access contraception have been pretty silent on the issue—perhaps because it's not pressing, perhaps because it's no longer politically useful. But there's also not a ton they can do about birth control's prescription status, which would require a reclassification by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And in order to trigger the FDA's reconsideration, a pharmaceutical company that makes birth control pills must file a request—something drugmakers have no profit or political motive to do. 

So maybe Oregon Rep. Buehler's idea—keep the prescription requirement, but make it much easier to get a prescription—is actually the best way forward here, then. Currently California is the only state where "on demand" birth control prescriptions from pharmacists are allowed.

The Oregon proposal, however, would also allow pharmacists to "choose not to prescribe and dispense" birth control pills "for ethical, moral, or religious resasons." Politically impossible as it may be, getting the gatekeepers out entirely by making the pill available over-the-counter is probably still a worthy end goal—and one that enjoys 70 percent of Americans' support. 

NEXT: Fear of Flakka

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  1. Make fertility drugs available over the counter and progressives would go apeshit.

    1. I have repeatedly asked some lefties about why they oppose this, and there’s been a weirdly consistent pause and then assertion that “its complex

      IOW, most confess = they don’t really know why, but there’s a ‘good reason’, and that the Marching Orders state that they are to shout “WAR ON WOMEN!!” at the top of their lungs, rather than ask why their own party restricts access to birth control.

      Seriously, almost no one has given me a straight answer, and when i say “just make it OTC” they claim this is a “lie” that Republicans use to try and cover up their anti-woman policies.

      Its basically like the Drug War – progs will insist they’re on the side of the good and right and true, but when you ask why their candidates keep supporting WoD policies, they aver that “its not that simple”.

    2. What makes you say that? Genuinely interested.

      Seems like progressives are most of the ones going apeshit over this. So maybe it’s that they feel threatened because it is harder to make employers cover OTC drugs.

      1. Responding to you and Gilmore…

        It’s complex. HA!

        But seriously, there are a host of reasons that end up being mish mashed together that all culminate in the left being skeptical of the fertility “industry”.

        One, there’s a lot of profit in the fertility industry. Wherever there’s profit, evil must be afoot.

        Two, they see women who choose repeatedly to have children this way as “selfish”, because there are lots of unwanted babies that could be adopted.

        Three, going back to the “industry”, it’s largely unregulated, creating automatic suspicion. They often use this “unregulated” banner to claim that the women making these choices aren’t making “informed” choices and are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous fertility clinics.

        There are others to be sure, but these are the ones I used to hear on NPR when I listened.

  2. *tap, tap*
    Is this thing working?

    1. Do not tap on glass it disturbs the squirrels

  3. For women without health insurance


    1. Are my gender references too binary?

      1. It was intended as a dig at Democratcare, E.

          1. *** recalibrates sarcasm meter ***

  4. The Oregon proposal, however, would also allow pharmacists to “choose not to prescribe and dispense” birth control pills “for ethical, moral, or religious [reasons].”

    So, when will there be a proposal that allows citizens to choose not to pay taxes “for ethical, moral, or religious [reasons]”?

    1. Oh Rich. The only reason a person wouldn’t want to pay their taxes is that they don’t want to pay their fair share, amirite? Why don’t you want to do your part for the collective, comrade?

      1. It is every American’s duty to pay their taxes blah blah blah blah…

  5. Sinus medication, however, will still require a prescription…

    1. …and for the customer to prove he isn’t a method dealer.

      1. Meth you stupid ass phone!

        1. That is what all you method-heads say.

        2. +1 there is no way I meant “duckery”

    2. Wait till they find out that bath salts are made from crushed birth-control pills.

    3. Don’t need a gyne visit to get OCPs! FP-s could do it, if they got paid appropriately for doing PAP smears! But, I like the OTC-OCP the best! Women should, all, know the risks, by now!

  6. Umm, but they still won’t let people pump their own gas.

    1. That requires a skilled professional jesse!

      1. A friend who lived in LA for a while before moving back to Portland always likes relaying CA hate. I guess a radio show was discussing a change in law to allow Oregonians to pump their own gas. A woman called in complaining about the safety hazard. The conversation then went something like

        Host: Ma’am would you say the people of Oregon are dumber than Californians?
        Woman: NO! Of course not.
        Host: You know that Californians have no problem pumping their own gas, right?
        Woman: But that’s diff…
        Host: Either you think we’re dumber than Californians or you want the law changed, simple as that.

        1. I actually had to teach an Oregonian woman how to pump gas one time. How she got from Oregon to BFE Georgia without that skill is still a mystery to me.

          1. We took my friend on a road trip and made him pump gas every time until he was comfortable with it. When he moved back to OR he almost got attacked by a gas attendant screaming “ARE YOU TRYING TO TAKE MY JOB” because he was so used to pumping his own gas.

          2. I’d never thought of pumping gas as a skill. Seems pretty obvious. I don’t recall having any problems when I started driving. Or do they also not allow you to watch gas being pumped in Oregon?

            1. I’ve lost track of the little old ladies I’ve helped at the pump. “My husband just died and he always did this…”

        2. But they ARE dumber than Californians.

          1. We were all thinking it. I’m glad somebody said it, IF.

            1. Well, for the record, I wasn’t thinking that.

        3. I’ve a conservative friend who’s against having certain legal choices in retail service. He likes that NJ makes pumping your own gas illegal because he doesn’t like doing it & therefore has an easier time finding full service gas when in NJ. He doesn’t think stores should be allowed to have info-gathering card plans for discounts; “Just give me the discount.”

  7. Finally, hopefully this takes hold everywhere. After visiting Seattle and driving down to Portland I think I’m nearly all in to live there at some point. Great beer, great scenery, wierdos everywhere to keep things interesting, and decent gun laws. The only drawbacks seem to be the bums I don’t know how bad it is in portland but seattle has so many fucking bums and some of the wackjob politicians they have.

    1. How do you distinguish between the bums and the politicians in Seattle?

      1. the bums don’t hold a gun to your head and rob you, while fucking you in the ass without lube. they just rob you at gun point.

        1. Luckily the hobos don’t tend to have guns on them. But I do. Mostly for dealing with hobos.

          1. Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose. Do you hear me, Lebowski?

            1. Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

            2. Nice rug.

    2. I’ve recently fallen in love with Seattle also.

      And on a positive note about Seattle bums, their shantytown game is really on point..

      1. There are shantytowns everywhere. Behind the stadiums on 4th Ave, down under the West Seattle Bridge extension over Spokane Street, in Pioneer Square, ugh.

        At least they ended the Free Ride Zone on the buses that ended on one end in my neighborhood in Belltown. That bus stop used to be hobo central.

        1. I went out there for my girlfriend’s cousin’s wedding in 2014. We went in August and the weather was incredibly beautiful. Anyway, we went to Pioneer Square during the day it reminded of Chicago’s Wicker Park. So we decided later on that evening that we would go back to Pioneer Park and see what the bars offered.

          Huge fucking mistake!

          So we walked from our hotel in Downtown Seattle to Pioneer Square and as a guy who lived on the Southside of Chicago, I was scared shitless. All we saw was bums and vagrants.

    3. wierdos everywhere to keep things interesting,

      They all vote progressive.

      1. Early and often. And remember kids, honest to God, self declared communists running city government.

  8. If only some Donkey with Executive status, somewhere in the Federal G could tell the FDA to get going…. nah.

  9. Without having read the actual legislation, based on ENB’s (not to be confused with ESB, who is a case of Cute, But Evil) description, this actually sounds like a reasonable, well-thought out bill.

    It’ll never pass.

  10. Don’t stop there. Make everything over-the-counter. You shouldn’t need permission to heal yourself.

    1. Heroin in vending machines.
      Children huffing Falco.

      1. Heroin vended
        Libertarian moment
        Mothers weep softly

    2. Obviously that’s what most people here think. And also obviously, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

  11. But what do whores like Sandra Fluke think? If the drug is OTC, she would have to pay for it herself.

    1. Maybe that’s why they made it easier to get, but still prescription.

  12. The Oregon proposal, however, would also allow pharmacists to “choose not to prescribe and dispense” birth control pills “for ethical, moral, or religious resasons[sic].”

    I see that there is still some support for the argument that “People are simply too stupid to allow them to ____________ freely.”

    No discussion about how prescription drug laws are pernicious and a total affront to individual rights? It is one thing not to want to sell me something, but quite another that the State compels everyone to ask permission to buy something first.

  13. Pharmacists being able to prescribe more generally would be great too. In some countries they can, and they get an impressive amount of schooling that they hardly use. This seems like a good approach, given the FDA.

  14. Ignore what FDA’s spokesman told you. There’s nothing in the FFDCA that requires the sponsor of a New Drug Application (which is what Rx-to-OTC would usually take) to be the maker of a drug. Of course it might be prohibitively expensive for anyone else to gather the info required, especially because the maker of a drug doesn’t have to provide it to you, requiring you to do a lot of duplicative work to generate & compile the data, but legally it can be done.

    1. In fact maybe 15 yrs. ago there was discussion of a citizen’s petition to do just that. A nonprofit like Planned Parenthood considered taking it up.

  15. Didn’t we hear in a recently past election the heretical view that BC pills should be available over-the-counter……
    from a Republican!

  16. Don’t need a gyne visit to get OCPs! FP-s could do it, if they got paid appropriately for doing PAP smears! But, I like the OTC-OCP the best! Women should, all, know the risks, by now!

  17. There are a number of prescription medications that could be safely converted to “over the counter, adult signature required”. Among these would be the common blood pressure medications and cholesterol medications along with common diabetic medications such as metformin. Arthritis generic medications such as meloxicam. Asthma inhalers.

    The major reason we have “prescription” medication is because such a law gives doctors a legal government enforced monopoly over access to these medications which the MD’s naturally exploit for their own economic benefit.

    Professional monopolies costs every one of us probably at least $3,000 a year in higher costs of goods and services. This is one of the “win-win” issues that libertarians can support since everyone except for the favored professions will benefit from lower living costs.

    1. The para. beginning “The major reason” doesn’t give any reason, but only a consequence or restatement.

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