D.C. Deregulates Birth Control…and Dooms It With Obamacare Add-Ons

The change would put D.C. in line with a rapidly rising number of states allowing pharmacist-prescribed oral contraceptives.


Roos Koole/ANP/Newscom

The District of Columbia Council gave the green light Tuesday to a bill allowing birth control pills to be purchased with a pharmacist's prescription.

The measure stops short of allowing over-the-counter contraceptive sales, which would run afoul of Food and Drug Administration policy. But it would allow for women to obtain birth control pills without regular visits to a doctor. The D.C. Board of Pharmacy would figure out how to implement the change.

The change would put D.C. in line with a rapidly increasing number of states allowing pharmacist-prescribed oral contraceptives. Following Oregon and California's lead, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico and Ohio passed similar legislation last year. Several others (including Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee) considered it.

The D.C. bill isn't all deregulatory goodness: it would also enshrine parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into local law, including the requirement that insurance companies cover contraception and other preventative health services at no out-of-pocket cost to the insured. The idea is to ensure their continued "free" coverage even if all or part of the ACA is repealed.

The bill now heads to D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser. If she signs it, the measure will then (like all D.C. legislation) be subject to congressional review—which could be tricky considering the current climate with regard to contraception mandates and Obamacare in general.

"No other state or local jurisdiction in the country has to worry that a random congressman is going to try and meddle with a locally-passed law," lamented D.C. council member and author of the bill, Charles Allen, in a statement.

True—but decreasing the barriers to accessing contraception might have a better chance if not yoked to a currently pointless policy backing up an already existing (and controversial) federal law.