Feminism

Get Your Devil Pills (Birth Control) Without Seeing a Doctor!

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Sorta transcript:

Media outlets are reporting that birth control is now available over the counter without a prescription in Oregon and, also be in California in a few months! Here’s why those headlines are slightly misleading and why it’s important to be really clear about what we’re talking about.

First, “over the counter” means different things in different places. Here in the US, it generally refers to anything you can buy at a pharmacy right off the shelf without needing a prescription. I noticed when I lived in London that there it generally referred to any item you didn’t need a prescription for but that the pharmacist had to supply to you. Hence, “over the counter.” Points to the Brits for clarity on that one.

In the case of birth control in Oregon and California, it’ll actually be the latter, British definition of “over the counter.” Birth control pills won’t be sold next to the Tylenol and deodorant for you to browse at your leisure. They’ll be behind the counter, and to get them you’ll have to fill out a health questionnaire that the pharmacist will evaluate before recommending you a particular type of birth control, which could be pills, or a patch, or a ring. In other words, you’ll still need a prescription, but you can now get that prescription from the pharmacist instead of your doctor.

So why is that detail so important? Well, for a few reasons. Number one, hormonal birth control comes in a variety of forms that have a variety of risks and side effects, and it’s still helpful to get  a professional’s advice.

Number two, pharmacists can opt out of prescribing you the birth control due to their religion. They have to recommend you to another pharmacist, but still, that’s really fucking annoying because it still means that you could go to the pharmacist and end up not getting your birth control. As a reminder, if you’re an atheist cashier at walgreen’s and you refuse to sell someone a Bible due to your religious objections, you’ll probably be fired.

And the third reason why the details are important is that if birth control pills were able to be sold without a prescription, that would be a big win for the Religious Right, because under the Affordable Care Act, insurers would no longer be mandated to pay for 100% of the cost of that healthcare. That’s something the Religious Right has been fighting very hard, and one of their planned end-arounds is to make birth control available off the shelf, thus forcing all women to pay for 100% of the cost of it.

But that’s not what this is: the birth control still requires a prescription, and so it still falls under the ACA’s guidelines.

So that’s what you need to know. I do think this step is a win for women, though ultimately I’d like to see everyone have improved access to their doctors for a full range of preventative health, and I’d also like for the law to mandate that all pharmacists everywhere do their fucking job.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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4 Comments

  1. January 7, 2016 at 12:54 pm —

    “Number two, pharmacists can opt out of prescribing you the birth control due to their religion. They have to recommend you to another pharmacist, but still, that’s really fucking annoying because it still means that you could go to the pharmacist and end up not getting your birth control.”

    Also, I hope the law is very specific about such referrals. E.g. prohibiting the recommendation of pharmacies that are known to also refuse on religious grounds. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if religious pharmacists agree to just recommend each other, sending customers in a never-ending loop of refusals.

    Let’s not forget that fundies are dishonest and vicious by nature. You can’t expect them to act like decent people.

    • January 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm —

      I can actually see that happening. It’s also, some smaller towns might have one or two pharmacists, in addition to the Walmart (and its numerous lookalikes) pharmacy. What you can do in New York or LA or Atlanta isn’t necessarily what you can do in Flyover Country.

      The good thing about the Walmart pharmacy is, you can always wait until the next shift to get your prescription filled, so there’s that.

  2. January 7, 2016 at 7:30 pm —

    How trustworthy are the prescriptions of pharmacists? Are they equipped to adjust the dosage of hormonal birth-control on the basis of questionnaires? Maybe I’m just worried because I remember the 70s when women I knew were really struggling with WAY too heavy standard dosages being tossed around by prescribers.

    And aren’t those the same pharmacists who stock all the homeopathic potions and fake ‘supplements?’

  3. January 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm —

    Oh, speaking of abortion, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is saying ‘young girls’ who grew up with Roe v. Wade are complacent about abortion. Your opinion, young women?

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