Starting in January 2019, pharmacists will be able to prescribe a 12-month supply of birth control to women in Washington, D.C., thanks to a bill signed into law Wednesday by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The legislation, called the Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act of 2018, would mean that women won't need to visit their doctor in order to get a contraception prescription. Seven other states, including California, Oregon, and New Mexico, have similar laws in place, though the regulations vary per place. The new D.C. law also requires that patients have access to co-pay free birth control, regardless of whether the receive coverage through insurance providers, Medicaid, or the D.C. Healthcare Alliance.
"Preventive care saves lives and reduces healthcare costs,” Bowser said in a statement provided to Refinery20. “From extending open enrollment to creating forward-thinking legislation that keeps Washingtonians safe from detrimental health care reforms, in Washington, D.C., we are committed to ensuring all residents are able to get the care and services they need to thrive and get on pathways to the middle class. "
A 2013 found that about 30% of women who were not on birth control or used a less effective method believed they would start taking the pill if it was offered without needing a prescription. And there's a myriad of reasons why patients would opt out of going to the doctor: financial barriers, inability to find child care, difficulty getting time off at work, and many others. A move like the new D.C. law could encourage them to get contraception, since it erases the need for a doctor's visit.
Being able to get a 12-month supply is highly beneficial, too. According to a 2011 study, there was a significant decrease in rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion when women were not forced to go to the pharmacy every one to three months in order to pick up their birth control prescription.
The new policy was met with praise from reproductive rights advocates, such as Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's executive vice president.
"We applaud Mayor Bowser and the D.C. City Council for listening to their constituents by taking critical steps to protect birth control coverage and the basic right for people to control their own bodies," she said in a statement provided to Refinery 29. "In 2018, we are still working toward a world in which we all have the freedom and opportunity to control our lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families, and our life’s path. This must include access to birth control."