BEND, OR -- A new report by the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) reveals a reduction in unplanned pregnancies in the state. Researchers credit a law allowing women to get birth control from a pharmacist, instead of requiring a doctor's visit.
Former Bend State Representative Dr. Knute Buehler spearheaded the 2015 legislation that made it possible for pharmacists to prescribe contraception. It went in to effect in January 2016. Buehler is encouraged by the findings and proud of his part, "It was the result of years of hard work and legislation that I helped pass. And, so far, in the first 24 months of implementation, the effects of the legislation have been impressive."
He says the idea seemed simple, "Pharmacists are increasingly able to provide medications, vaccines, those sorts of things at our local pharmacies. And, I thought, there was no reason, with the safety profile of modern-day contraception, that they couldn't provide that over the counter, which is much more convenient, if you think about it." Dr. Buehler tells KBND News improving access to birth control is a bipartisan issue, "We can find areas of agreement, in even these very partisan times. And, that's what this bill did: to allow, essentially, over-the-counter contraception to women in Oregon had broad bipartisan support both in the House and in the Senate; and it's an area that we can all agree on."
Roughly 45% of U.S. pregnancies are, reportedly, unintended and Buehler calls unplanned pregnancy a public health issue for Oregon. OHSU researchers found that preventing those unplanned pregnancies saved Oregon taxpayers $1.6 million in the last two years. "At least 50 unintended pregnancies were prevented in Oregon in just the last year," says Buehler, "This makes my time in the legislature feel well-served - that we accomplished something that's really changing and improving people's lives." He's pleased other states following Oregon's lead. There are now similar laws in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, "I expect this to continue to grow across the country. Almost everyone can agree on that, right? Prevention is the best policy here."