Officials announced last week that women and adolescents in California would now be able to obtain birth control at their local pharmacy without a prescription, thanks to a recently passed law. California is the third state to pass such a measure, after Washington and Oregon, and proponents say that the added ease of access will significantly reduce unintended pregnancies.
The law has no restrictions regarding age, and contraceptive access is covered under all health insurance plans due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. A trained pharmacist will be able to provide any form of self-administered birth control — meaning either the pill, patch, injection or vaginal ring — immediately following the completion of a brief health questionnaire and a blood pressure test.
The bypassing of a prescription from a doctor is a revolutionary step for women’s health. No longer will women have to make appointments months in advance to be allowed to have a say in their own sexual health. This is especially beneficial for those who are both the most at risk for an unplanned pregnancy and have the hardest time making personal doctor’s appointments: adolescents.
Many teenagers loathe and dread the inevitable sex talk with their parents, often for legitimate resentment of their parents’ proscriptions, yet parental consent is required for the vast majority of prescriptions. This often leads to the average adolescent’s sexual protection being an unfortunate hodgepodge of condoms and hope — both of which are not nearly as effective as proper birth control.
Opponents of the California law say that providing easily accessible birth control for “the most vulnerable” young women will result in them being “talked into things.” Yet, it’s difficult to understand what those seemingly terrible things are. Most teenagers have sex before they leave high school, and for most, those first sexual encounters occur well before they see a physician to talk about their sexual activity.
This at-risk sector of the population is already obviously engaging in sex — no pharmacist is ever going to convince them not to. Why not give them a way to do it safely? Protection from an unwanted pregnancy through safe sex cannot continue to be demonized strictly on moral principles. The health of those at risk and the lives of the children they will unwillingly bring into the world need to come first.
There is no logical reason that female birth control should not be available over-the-counter. It is proven to be safe and should be provided readily to those who need it. Laws such as the one passed in California need to be pushed on a national scale. The ability to protect oneself from an unwanted pregnancy — no matter the age — is a right; it shouldn’t be held hostage by a doctor’s prescription.
This article initially appeared online at Washington Square News.