You heard that right, surfer girls (and all other non-surfing female residents of California). You can now walk into your pharmacy, ask for your birth control of choice and get it without the hassle of having to present a script from your gynecologist. All you have to do is fill out a 20-question health assessment form so your pharmacist knows you won't spontaneously combust when you insert the NuvaRing.
While Washington and Oregon have corresponding laws that also recently went into effect, California is currently the only state with no age restriction on who can procure birth control. This will hopefully help the nationwide teen pregnancy rate continue to drop and subsequently reduce the number of teens with severe acne (if only it had been around when I was a teen... sigh).
This awesome law was actually passed back in 2013, but like most groundbreaking legislations, it took a couple of years (and a lot of draft revisions) to get it to where everyone agreed on it. And it's not stopping with California. According to Los Angeles Times, New Mexico and Alaska are moving forward with similar laws, and Hawaii's already in the process of passing its law through the system. Now I say it's about high time the East Coast follows suit. Come on, New York — California is trend-eclipsing you yet again!
There is one possible negative side effect to making birth control easily accessible. Some doctors are afraid their patients won't come as regularly for checkups if they no longer need their gyno to update their birth control script. Case in point: I have several friends who stopped taking prescription birth control and now visit their gynecologists only every other year at best. On a more scientific level, one study published in the Contraception journal found that Texan women who got their birth control sans prescription across the Mexican border were less likely to get regular gynecological screenings. If these instances predict a nationwide tendency, then these laws could result in a rise in gynecological issues, like STIs, vaginal infections and even cancer.
However, others believe that most women will take their gynecological health seriously, just as they do their general health. The 20-question survey they must fill out to obtain their birth control is also designed to uncover possible health conditions that pharmacists are then required to suggest the woman get checked out. Plus, not to get too feminist on you, but men have been buying condoms for years without anyone worrying about whether they're getting regular reproductive-specific checkups. Just saying.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is against the passing of these state-based laws, but not for the reason you might think. The organization is actually in support of a federal law that would make birth control truly over the counter and not subject to each pharmacy's approval (as the laws currently stand, pharmacies are not required to offer such birth control services).
Personally, I believe all laws that free up women's reproductive rights, no matter how small, are a step forward and will hopefully pave the way for more nationwide legislation.
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