Birth Control

Missouri May Free Birth-Control Pills From Doctor's Prescription

Another GOP-led bill to decouple birth-control pills from doctors shows contraception is losing luster in the culture wars.



Following in the wake of similar changes in California and Oregon, Missouri lawmakers may strip hormonal birth-control of its prescription-only status. A bill sponsored by statehouse Republican Rep. Sheila Solon (District 31) would add "the prescribing and dispensing of hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives to the definition of the practice of pharmacy." This means that while birth control pills and patches would not technically be "prescription free," nor sold over the counter, people could purchase them in one visit to Target or the local drugstore.

As it stands, getting birth control in most of the U.S. requires yearly—or sometimes more frequently, depending on the doctor, clinic, or health insurance plan—visits to a physician to renew one's prescription. This demands women take time off things like work or childcare in order to get a permission slip for something safe and routine, drives up overall health care expenses, and makes avoiding unintended pregnancy more difficult

Preventing unintended pregnancies is Rep. Solon's aim, according to the Associated Press. Someone whose website proudly touts "Conservative Values" near the top of its homepage, Solon opposes abortion and thinks making it easier for women to get contraception can help reduce the need for women to go that route.  

This probably sounds like common sense to you, but it's taken Republican politicians a long time to come around to the idea that "endorsing" the use of birth control by making it easier to get would actually work toward their pro-family and anti-abortion aims, rather than merely encourage more ladies to start slutting it up. The past few years, however, have seen glimmers of hope that while some contraceptive methods may remain controversial (mostly emergency contraception and intrauterine devices), birth control more broadly is losing its luster in the culture wars. 

Republican lawmakers have been the biggest drivers of recent moves to make birth control pills available without a doctor's visit. And several other states (including Washington state and Tennesee) are considering similar measures. Most proposals stop short of recommending over-the-counter access and offer some variation on the pharmacist consultation route.

Solon's proposal would still require women to see a doctor within three years of receiving a pharmacist's prescription. Women under 18 could renew a prescription through a pharmacist but would have to show them an initial doctor's prescription first. It would also allow birth control supplies to be sold in one-year increments after an initial three-month prescription.

The measure, House Bill 1679, was introduced in December 2015 and received an initial hearing this week. Co-sponsors include one male Republican, one female Republican, and one female Democrat, Reps. Shamed Dogan (District 98), Chrissy Sommer (District 106), and Bonnaye Mims (District 27).