Time Is Running Out for South Carolina's Over-the-Counter Birth Control Bill

The Pharmacy Access Act is good policy stuck in legislative limbo.


A South Carolina bill that would allow women to access birth control pills without a doctor's prescription is running out of time before the state's legislative session ends. While the bill passed unanimously through the South Carolina Senate, there are only seven legislative days left to pass the bill in the House.

The Pharmacy Access Act would allow women over the age of 18 to receive birth control pills or other hormonal contraception from a pharmacist without a doctor's prescription. The bill also allows pharmacists to dispense the medication to women under 18, provided they can show evidence of a past birth control prescription. The bill does not require pharmacists to dispense the medication.

The Pharmacy Access Act is a reasonable step forward in allowing women more autonomy over their medical choices. Birth control pills have been proven safe and effective. In fact, 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia already allow pharmacists to dispense hormonal contraceptives without a doctor's prescription. Further, for the few women for whom hormonal contraceptives pose a health risk, the bill mandates that women fill out a risk assessment form, ensuring that those with conditions such as blood clots or uncontrolled high blood pressure will not be incorrectly given possibly dangerous medication.

While birth control pills are both safe and easy to use, in 31 states, women seeking to take them—for everything from contraception, to painful menstrual symptoms, to acne problems—are required to use a physician as a pricey and time-intensive middleman. Uninsured women may not be able to afford that expense, while women living in rural areas often face the obstacle of finding a reasonably nearby doctor with available appointments. Pharmacies, meanwhile, are plentiful and don't require appointments.

One of the bill's most fierce advocates, Rep. Russell Ott (D–St. Matthews) has taken a different approach to advocating for the bill. Ott argues that the bill will reduce abortions in South Carolina: "If we want to get serious about cutting down on abortions, if we're going to decrease the number of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, we need to get real." As he continued during a subcommittee meeting on the bill, "This is about trying to make sure that women have more of an opportunity to have access to contraceptives than they currently do."

This bill therefore serves as an interesting response to a world in which women are increasingly unable to access abortions. Especially with Roe v. Wade possibly on the Supreme Court's chopping block, increasing women's ability to prevent pregnancy is a surprisingly useful solution from a state whose legislature introduced a bill outright banning abortion earlier this year. In a future where abortion is illegal across red-state America, increased access to contraceptives could become increasingly important.

The measure has broad support in South Carolina. Dawn Bingham, a Columbia-area OB-GYN physician, addressed concerns that the bill would make women less likely to go to the doctor for important screenings, stating in a discussion of the bill that "cervical cancer screenings are not actually recommended annually for most women. It's actually 3 to 5 years for most women."

While the bill passed unanimously in the Senate, and passed out of a House subcommittee with only one opposition vote, the bill's chances of being passed into law are waning as the legislative session draws to a close.

However, the bill's supporters remain optimistic. As Sen. Tom Davis (R–Beaufort) said: "Even social conservatives in the Upstate realize what we are talking about here is avoiding unintended pregnancies, which is going to reduce the number of abortions in South Carolina."

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  1. why are birth control pills special compared to other pills?

    Government shouldnt' have any say whatsoever about any pills i want to buy.

    1. Pre 1906 anyone could make any “medication” and could claim it cures anything. There was no testing, nor any oversight of ingredients. The market was chaos, with at best the consumer confused about what works and what does not, and at worst having completely ineffective and even toxic products. That was pretty bad. Now every drug has been tested for harm and effectiveness, and all ingredients are verified. Going back would be a disaster.

      1. Pre 1906 In 2019-2020, anyone could make any “medication” "vaccine" and could claim it cures anything. There was no testing, nor any oversight of ingredients. The market was chaos, with at best the consumer confused about what works and what does not, and at worst having completely ineffective and even toxic products. That was pretty bad.

      2. Now every drug has been tested for harm and effectiveness, and all ingredients are verified. Going back would be a disaster.

        Except for vaccines used under EUAs.

        Now tell me about Thalidomide, which was re-approved in 1994 for its tumor-reducing properties.. How many people died in the interim?

      3. Yes and no. Yes, it was stupid snakeoil stuff. Just like we have today in the form of Goop and shit. If you call it a supplement and put some wiggle room in your claim, you can sell poisoned pills legally.

        So no, the FDA didn't stop snake oil. It's still here. What the FDA did stop was adulteration and outrageous medical claims. You could do that with an agency a tenth the size of the current FDA.

        The real question is why all the snake oil back then? One reason is that modern medicine was NEW! For all of recorded history before then medicine was pretty much voodoo. People were just getting used to the concept, so someone selling snake oil out of the back of a wagon was just as good as someone who went to Philly or Paris to learn medicine.

        And people were learning it. Snake oil was on the way out before the FDA popped up. Government action always follows public action. Consumer groups were popping up at the same time, doctors associations were popping up at the same time. The AMA was one of them. People were figuring it.

        Then fast forward to today and notice that the snake oil is still here. All that alternative medicine and eastern medicine and homeopathy and shit. Crazy unsafe stuff like bleach and black tar. Untested supplements that can be harmful in large doses, and quacks telling people that large doses of supplements will cure anything. Holy shit, we even had whole episodes during the pandemic over horse dewormer and fish antibiotics. And even a presidential mention of bleach for christsake.

      4. Explain to me why a single entity subject only to political control should be able to veto the judgment of any potential consumer and that consumer's voluntarily-chosen advisors on the value of drugs or any other product.

    2. Oh but government is so sensible about its control over pills. For example, if you want to take testosterone pills to become more muscular, you are a horrible person and a criminal. But if you’re born female and feel you’d prefer to be male, testosterone pills are just wonderful and you are wonderful for taking them. That’s government logic and fairness.

  2. Over the counter birth control is the most sensible policy ever. I'm amazed that so many on the Right are adamantly opposed to it. It's 2022 for cripes sake, not 1922! It's okay if women have sex! Really it is!

    Men can buy condoms from liquor stores, pharmacists, grocers, and even restroom vending machines. But women need a doctor's note? What the fuck?

    Time to get the prudes out of office. We're not talking about abortions here, we're talking about proven and safe birth control pills.

    1. No one on the right is opposed to it. That is a hobgoblin in your little mind.

      1. Then who is stopping it in South Carolina. South Carolina. Red state, not blue state. Red, not blue.

        When did their legislature get taken over by the left? If the right is not blocking this bill, then who the hell is?

        1. It's actually not clear from the article since it passed unanimously in the Senate and near unanimously in the subcommittee. My guess is some pushback from Doctors or OB-GYNs or something. Bills like this tend to draw some ire from current interests because things like Doctors/Planner Parenthood/Whatever else can give these prescriptions like to be able to bill insurance for these things.
          Maybe the speaker of the house has some particular issue with it, though I don't know the rules of SCs system.
          Might just be a busy year and it's falling of the docket.

          1. Also, looking at the bill itself's history:

            It passed out of the subcommittee only yesterday. So, might just be normal procedural times to put it up for a vote. Once again, I don't know, but it doesn't look that suspicious considering the details I'm reading.

    2. Yeah, seems fine to me. I mean, I'm against birth control, but that's definitely a social argument more than a political one.
      I hope we can see actual increased deregulation of medicine in this way though. I don't know where the line is, but I think we probably could give a lot of prescribing powers to people or pharmacists without any meaningful shift in harm done.

      1. If we were being consistent, the FDA would have an emergency authorization for a 'morning after pill' invented in the dark of night, then mandate it for all children under 12. Then hide the test data, and then claim it'll be 75 years before they can release it.

      2. The trouble is, in the USA at least (maybe in many other countries as well), you need a pressure group for every single drug or device to advocate for deregulating it. It was that way with medical marijuana, seems to be that way with contraceptives too. It's hard to get blanket deregulation, which requires undercutting the idea of government regulation per se. Fortunately, the more examples we get of deregulation of individual products and services, the better the case people will see for deregulation generally.

    3. Men can buy condoms from liquor stores, pharmacists, grocers, and even restroom vending machines. But women need a doctor's note? What the fuck?

      While I agree with you that I don't think over-the-counter BC pills are a human tragedy, comparing a condom to a BC pill is about as inapt as you can get.

      That's like comparing a 'morning after' pill that induces an abortion to a rubber. One has potential side effects, the other doesn't. Birth control does 100% have side effects, so the remaining question is, are they reasonable safe and mild, even if taken without a prescription? What is the risk profile?

  3. Nowadays, there are a lot of means that can help you. But I have an idea that you can also use. Recently I found this resource where you can order some products that help the body relax and feel better. I was making an order for myself and my sister. We were both happy because it really works. I really assume you may gain more profit from this.

  4. This bill is crucial. Because I ain't wearing a condom.

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