Despite the ongoing attacks on reproductive healthcare, with the New Year we are seeing some policies on women’s health care change for the better; California and Oregon will be providing birth control pills over the counter at pharmacies. Women who are at least 18 years can skip the mandatory doctor’s visit (consisting of pregnancy & STI testing before issuing a prescription), and will be able to speak directly to a pharmacist, fill out a questionnaire, and receive a year’s supply of birth control on the spot for a low(er) cost.
Providing low-cost birth control over the counter makes family planning much more accessible to Americans, which is one big step in the right direction for reproductive justice. However, not only does this strategy provide women with a safe and easy contraceptive option, it’s actually going to be pretty effective. Reproductive health researchers at The University of California, San Francisco estimate that, as a result of birth control being offered over the counter, 11-21% of low-income women will start using birth control, which will result in an estimated 7-25% decrease in unintended pregnancies.
The decrease in births will also effect a decrease in insurance & public health plan prices, since less pregnancy and birth care services will be needed. Less unplanned births also conserve other valuable resources from food and electricity to oil and waste.
Some medical professionals worry that providing contraceptives this freely will discourage women from seeking out preventative care like STI testing and cancer screening. What needs to be done to combat this potential backlash is to create more access and education; better access to condoms, better access to education on disease, and most importantly better access to medical services. Ideally, though, and with access to these educational & medical services, we should trust women to take care of themselves.
Hopefully by 2017 we will see most states following in the footsteps of CA and OR. Though I do wonder what the questionnaire will be like.