Proposed Bill Aims For OTC Birth Control

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 23:42:41-05

A possible new bill could give women access to birth control without a prescription in Tennessee.

State Senator Steven Dickerson (R, Nashville) announced his proposed legislation Wednesday.

It would apply to women over the age of 18 and include pills and potentially hormonal patch contraceptives.    

“This legislation aims to provide timely and convenient access for Tennessee women to birth control,” said Senator Dickerson, who is an anesthesiologist. 

“Requiring a physician’s prescription can be an obstacle to access and effective use, especially among low-income women.  One of the barriers for women is the fact they need to go to a doctor’s office to get a prescription. Often, this burdens them with missing work or takes them away from their family," he said.

Dickerson said the details of the bill are still being worked out, but that it would include providing pharmacists with a “risks list” to ensure patient safety.   

Oregon and California were the first states to allow women to buy birth control without a doctor’s prescription.  

Oregon’s statute has already been implemented, while California’s law is expected to take effect in March. 

But Nashville pharmacist Dr. Shawn Pruitt says he's hesitant about the idea. In addition to the extra time burden on already-busy pharmacists, he says he has medical concerns.

"There are several different hormones that come by prescription," he said, "each one has its own effect. So there are no cookie-cutter, one birth control pill for every patient (options)."

While he likes that the bill would broaden what a pharmacist can do, Pruitt worries about the liability of taking patients without the same access doctors get.

"We have no lab levels, we have no medical history, someone could come off the street," he said, "it's not giving the pharmacist the full picture of what they would need to make an informed decision."

He says it will be interesting to see how the bill plays out in the legislature, and across the state if enacted.

Dickerson says he hopes the bill can go into effect as early as July 1.

The College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has supported the idea of over the counter birth control since 2012.