With the future of a federal mandate requiring free birth control coverage in jeopardy, a number of states are stepping in to take matters into their own hands. Here in New York, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the state government would take “aggressive action” to protect women’s access to no-cost birth control options. In Colorado, meanwhile, state legislators have passed a new law that makes it possible for women to get oral contraceptives and birth control patches from pharmacies without seeing a doctor.
This change was made in accordance with an endorsement from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which advised that seeing a doctor is typically an unnecessary obstacle for women seeking oral contraceptives.
Currently, Colorado is one of only three states to offer over-the-counter birth control options. Women who are prescribed birth control from a pharmacy will still be subject to a state rule which requires them to receive a medical exam from a doctor at least once every three years.
To qualify for over-the-counter birth control, women in Colorado must be 18 and complete a brief questionnaire and consultation with their pharmacist to identify potential health risks. Public health analysts estimate that only about 10 percent of women will be referred to a doctor based on this preliminary screening.
Proponents of the new policy are optimistic that it will improve contraceptive access for college students and women living in rural areas.
For these women, scheduling a pelvic exam with a doctor can constitute a significant inconvenience that prevents them from getting birth control in a timely fashion. By eliminating this barrier, women in remote areas and students who attend school away from home will have an easier time getting birth control when they need it.