You Can Now Get Birth Control Without A Doctor In California

Photographed by Nicholas Bloise.
A 2013 bill that would allow women to get birth control straight from their pharmacies took effect as California law last Friday. Now, pharmacists in the state may prescribe the pill, patch, or ring to women of any age, as long as those women answer a few questions about their health. Following Washington and Oregon, California is the third state to make this change. Ideally, this would make birth control more accessible to women, since this process doesn't require you to see a doctor to get a prescription. Instead, women simply need to fill out a 20-question health-screening questionnaire. (If their answers reveal any potential risks, then pharmacists can counsel and refer them for further care.) The law doesn't require pharmacists to comply, however, so it's not a guarantee at every drugstore. But some chains have already started training their employees for the new service. Still, this doesn't mean that birth control is available over-the-counter in the Sunshine State, which is what the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends. The group has long been a public supporter of making OTC birth control easily available, as it already is in many developed countries. This legislation is viewed by some as a step in the right direction, but critics say laws like this don't do much to tear down what Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, ACOG's president, refers to as the barriers "between the patient and the pill."

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