As of January 1, 2016, women in Oregon can skip the doctor's visit that other states require before they're allowed to purchase birth control pills. Henceforth, pharmacists there can issue prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives themselves.
The change moves the Beaver State closer to the over-the-counter scheme endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2012. It doesn't go all the way, however, since technically the pills are still regulated as prescription meds. Sen. Cory Gardner (R–Colo.) and other Republicans last year proposed doing what the group actually called for: allowing birth control pills to be sold to anyone at any time without a prescription at all.
When it comes to a medication's effectiveness, convenience matters: If someone can run out to the drug store at whatever time of day is best for her, she's less likely to miss doses. "Being able to easily get the pill when you need it makes a difference," Dr. Dan Grossman of the University of California, San Francisco, told Yahoo! News.
Beyond the practical advantages of allowing women to buy pills over the counter, such a change would have positive ramifications for religious liberty. Some employers and insurance providers have moral objections to paying for contraception coverage, as Obamacare requires. If many types of birth control were available at many different price points, and no health insurance were needed to make their purchase possible, the government wouldn't need to intervene in the name of ensuring everyone has access to family planning services.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Not Quite OTC".