Oregon just became the first state to allow women to get birth control without a prescription

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Oregonians woke up to a slew of new laws on January first, including one that allows women to get birth control without a doctor's prescription.

The bill passed a House vote in July, and stipulates that women over the age of 18 will be able to receive hormonal birth control (in the form of a pill or patch) with approval from the pharmacist. Women under the age of 18 need to have "evidence of a previous prescription," according to the bill. A separate law allows women to get a full year's supply of birth control per visit.

The new law makes Oregon the first state to expand birth control access in this way. California is slated to follow suit, and Colorado and Washington may eventually do the same.


As Fusion explained in July, the new law doesn't quite mean birth control should be thought of as available over-the-counter. For that to be the case, women wouldn't even need the pharmacist's approval to gain access to the contraception.

Some fear that divorcing birth control prescriptions from doctor's visits will mean that fewer women will visit their gynecologists for regular checkups.

Still, the law marks an improvement on the previous system, and has been praised by advocates for women's health, like Mara Gandal-Powers National Women's Law Center, who described Oregon as at the "forefront" on the issue, adding that "The ability to access birth control when you need it is critically important."

Others pointed out that the ability to get 12 months worth of birth control at once—instead of a monthly pack per pharmacy trip—will make things easier for some. Mary Nolan, who serves as executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, told the Los Angeles Times that "We know that allowing women to get a yearlong prescription improves its effectiveness… if you can imagine a woman who lives 30 or 40 minutes away from a pharmacy, having to make two separate trips could be a burden on her."


Pharmacists will, however, still be able to refuse to personally prescribe birth control on religious grounds. So there's that.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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