Boon for birth control

Pharmacists’ ability to prescribe hormonal methods in California should help curb unplanned pregnancies

As of last week (April 8), pharmacists in California are able to prescribe hormonal birth control (the pill, the ring, the patch) to women and girls. Most people seem to be in favor of legislation allowing this, which actually was passed in 2013 but was held up in legal discussion until now. But, naturally, others—pro-life groups in particular—see it as a blow to family values. We’re with the first group.

Until now, one would have to make an appointment at a doctor’s office or clinic like Planned Parenthood once a year in order to fill or refill a birth control prescription. That visit usually would include a pap smear to check for cervical cancer, a breast exam and discussion of other reproductive health issues. Now those discussions—but not the pap smear or breast exam—can be performed by your friendly neighborhood pharmacist. Implanted birth control such as the IUD still will have to be administered in a doctor’s office.

This is great news. It expands access to birth control, especially for those without insurance. There also is no age minimum, which means teenagers whose parents might not be willing to make a doctor’s appointment, or who may find it difficult to get to a clinic on their own, will be able to obtain birth control.

Opponents argue that the change will discourage women from seeing an OB/GYN for their regular exams. We share that concern, but at the same time recognize that the outcome of a pap smear has no bearing on a doctor’s ability to prescribe birth control. So there’s no real need to link the two. We just urge girls and women of all ages to be mindful of their health, follow guidelines for checkups and exams and remember that birth control does not stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

More than anything, this change should mean we see fewer unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, which should be welcome news to pro-lifers out there, as it also will mean fewer abortions.