California and Oregon are set to be the first states in the country where people can access hormonal birth control — which includes pills, the patch, or the ring — without a doctor’s prescription. The new laws simply require filling out a brief medical history questionnaire to check for any risks and a consultation with a pharmacist before getting your birth control.
While the Oregon law has an age restriction that requires teenagers under 18 to already have their first contraceptive prescription from a doctor, California’s law has no age restriction.
It’s a part of the latest efforts to curb unintended pregnancies, which according to the New York Times, is about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. each year. The laws will also expand the scope of what pharmacists can do, allowing them to also prescribe medications for smokers trying to quit and for people traveling abroad, in addition to the birth control.
This is an awesome step forward for reproductive health policy, but it’s still super important to visit the doctor for check ups and screenings even if you can get your birth control without a doctor’s prescription, health professionals remind us.
“Birth-control pills are not the only way you can prevent pregnancy, and they definitely don’t prevent STDs,” gynecologist Kathleen Valenton says. Not to mention, you should definitely still be going to doctors for things like PAP smears and cancer screenings. (And for reproductive health information in general, especially for those who don’t know how birth control works?)
While the California law was actually passed in 2013, details of the new law is still being worked out and is scheduled to take effect in March of 2016.
The Oregon Law, which was signed earlier this year, takes effect today, January 1, 2016!
(Image via Shutterstock.)