Oregon Birth Control Legislation Could Make It The First State To Guarantee Women A Full Glorious Year Of Contraception

New legislation passed in both the Oregon House and the Senate on Tuesday that could allow women in Oregon to get a year of birth control at once, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Oregon would be the first state in the nation to pass such a measure. In a second, separate measure, the House voted to allow pharmacists to write prescriptions for birth control once women complete a risk-screening questionnaire, according to Portland TV station KGW. The two measures, if signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown, would make Oregon a front-running state for easily accessible birth control.

The first measure, which was supported by a unanimous Senate vote, would require that private insurers pay for up to 12 months of birth control at once, according to KGW. Mary Nolan of Planned Parenthood told OPB that one study suggests that getting a full year's worth of contraception at once can reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy by 30 percent. Specifically, advocates of the measure have said that receiving a full year of birth control will ensure more effective use, because women won't have to stop taking their birth control if a prescription is delayed. Nolan called Oregon's measure the biggest improvement in reproductive health in a generation, according to OPB:

If we are successful in reducing unintended pregnancies by even a fraction of what that study suggests, we save money and we empower families to determine when young people want to become parents and to space out their pregnancies to improve their health.
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The second measure, which will head to the Senate next, would also help women circumvent costly, time consuming visits to the doctor's office by allowing them to purchase birth control directly from a pharmacist. Rep. Knute Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon and Republican from Bend, said in a statement that he is proud to introduce the legislation, "which will be one of the most significant improvements to women’s health," according to the Portland Business Journal:

Under this legislation, single moms who are working multiple jobs, college students who work the night shift, and every other woman who needs contraceptives can drive to their local Walgreens and purchase birth control without any previous visit or prescription.

Buehler's statement recognizes some of the major and common obstacles standing between women and access to birth control prescriptions: women often cannot afford to take unpaid time off of work to visit a doctor; some women do not have the time or money to get to and from the doctor's office; and, doctors visits themselves can be costly. Studies have also found that doctors often withhold birth control prescriptions unless women come in for pelvic exams or pap smears, which, when required every time a woman needs a birth control prescription, can become too frequent, unnecessary, and ineffective, according to Mother Jones.

Buehler's pharmacy measure was also supported by doctors. Buehler said the Oregon Medical Association, Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, Oregon Nurses Association, and Oregon Health & Science University all supported the bill, according to the Business Journal.

Oregon would be the second state in the nation to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. California passed a similar measure earlier this year but is still implementing rules to guide its practice.

Easy birth control access is tied to an extensive list of positive social and economic benefits. Planned Parenthood cited a 2014 economic study that found that people born in years immediately after federal planning programs began were less likely to live in poverty as children and adults. Further, a separate study by the Guttmacher Institute found that more young women obtained at least some kind of college education and more college-educated women pursued advanced professional degrees when they had access to contraception.

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States across the U.S. are either passing measures to increase access to birth control or are passing restrictions that make it more difficult to get. In May, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for insurers to deny benefits or pass along extra costs to the consumer, according to Bloomberg. Simply put, the bill would make sure insurers are doing what the Affordable Care Act says and would expand some access to free birth control, but at least it's another step in the right direction.

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