Better birth control access should not be limited to the West Coast

By Editor-in-Chief

While the rest of the nation battles to defund Planned Parenthood and limit the availability of reproductive health resources to women nationwide, California became the third state to allow women of all ages improved access to birth control without a prescription at participating pharmacies on April 8.

Though the law was originally proposed in 2013, regulatory discussions slowed its progress, according to an April 8 Los Angeles Times article. Contrary to many people’s impressions, California women won’t get access to the pill just by asking for it; however, filling out a health questionnaire and consulting a pharmacist will likely lead to a successful purchase.

Under the new law, California women can purchase any form of birth control they can safely self-administer, including pills, patches, vaginal rings and injections; women seeking longer-lasting forms of birth control such as intrauterine devices are still required to see a doctor, the Los Angeles Times article explained.

Some are concerned the law does not set a minimum age for access to hormonal birth control from a pharmacist. While the law does not explicitly prevent this from happening, it seems highly unlikely that a teen who would not normally be prescribed birth control would be able to get her hands on the pill after completing the 20-question health survey and pharmacist consultation. 

Many parents of teens have expressed concerns about the possibility of their daughters using hormonal contraceptives without their knowledge, but expanded access to health care resources should still be supported. Parents can continue to raise their children to adhere to religious or moral beliefs about premarital sex, but allowing women the ability to reduce their chances of unintended pregnancies if they so choose to have sex is a positive move.

Women’s reproductive health options will likely remain a controversial issue, especially during the 2016 presidential election, but medical professionals seem overwhelmingly convinced of the benefits this law and similar initiatives could bring women on a national scale. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggested in November 2012 that women in the U.S. should be allowed access to hormonal birth control without requiring prescriptions, according to a November 2012 Reuters Health report.

Recent legislative initiatives to limit women’s access to abortion clinics and strengthen barriers to undergoing the procedure make it imperative to increase the availability of hormonal birth control. A January 2013 Reuters Health report revealed that 46 other developed countries already allow women access to hormonal birth control without a prescription, suggesting the U.S. lags far behind and correcting the xenophobic myth that the country leads the world in every respect.

The sparsity of sexual education programs and continuing efforts to restrict women’s control of their reproductive health make it all the more crucial that preventative measures are available. The rest of the country should follow the path of Washington, Oregon and now California to prove their commitment to gender equality and improved health care for women.