SALEM, OR -- State Senators have approved a bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense birth control without a prescription. Representative Dr. Knute Beuhler (R-Bend) introduced the legislation in an effort to expand access to contraception.
Senator Dr. Elizabeth Steine-Hayward was pleased with safeguards included in the bill. "The risk assessment will be thorough – it’s a 27-question questionnaire that includes family history of risks, whether someone smokes, and blood pressure will be screened as part of this," she testified before the vote. "I will be following the rulemaking on this very closely, personally, because I understand the concerns raised by others. I want to be sure it’s safe, that we don’t risk women’s well being by doing it this way. But, they will be counseling on different types of oral contraceptives and the risks and benefits of each of them." The bill applies to women over the age of 18 purchasing oral contraceptives or a hormonal patch, and requires them to see their doctor every three years. Those under 18 would initially need to have a doctor's prescription.
Senator Dr. Alan Bates was initially opposed to the idea, but says he changed his mind after doing his own research. "Our teenage pregnancy rate in this country is off the map, compared to Europe. One of the reasons is contraceptives are readily available in Europe but not in this country. As a result, I believe we have too many abortions. This will help prevent abortions, help prevent unwanted pregnancies, and as a physician, after carefully looking at the facts – which it took me some time to do; I admit that – I am fully in support of this bill. It’s the right thing to do."
Despite opposition from some who said the bill would put women at risk from side effects, HB 2879 passed the Senate, 24 to 4, and is headed back to the House for concurrence.