Birth Control pills. Photo via Bruce Blaus of Wikimedia Commons.

California is joining Oregon as one of the few states that allows women to go directly to their pharmacy for birth control.

A law went into effect on Friday that greatly expands the power of pharmacists to directly provide hormonal contraception, according to the California Pharmacists Association (CPA). The legislation, known as Senate Bill 493 and introduced by Sen. Ed Hernandez, creates a statewide protocol for pharmacies to offer birth control, and was passed back in 2013.

“Today is a wonderful day for women’s healthcare in California,”said Jon Roth, Chief Executive Officer of the CPA, sponsors of SB 493.

The CDC created specific regulations and guidelines for the pharmacies to follow. The CPA says the types of birth control they can provide include the pill, the patch, the ring and Depo injection methods for women. The bill also extends the abilities of pharmacies to prescribe smoking cessation services, travel medications, expanded immunizations and developed an Advanced Practice Pharmacist license.

“California’s 6,500 community pharmacies are the face of neighborhood healthcare in this state,” said Roth. “Community pharmacies are open beyond normal business hours and patients do not need an appointment to see their pharmacist. That means these regulations will go a long way to expanding women’s access to birth control.”

However, it’s still not considered a simple over-the counter purchase. According to a report from Mercury News, patients must fill out a health questionnaire and consult with their pharmacist about the appropriate form of birth control. Some patients are also required to have their blood pressure tested.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have criticized the need for women to consult their pharmacists on birth control, with the argument that this will continue to create unnecessary barriers.

“ACOG has long supported over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives. Birth control is an essential part of women’s health care, and over-the-counter status would help more women benefit from the ability to control their own reproductive health,” said Mark S. DeFrancesco, President of the ACOG in a statement. “Of course, decades of use have proven that oral contraceptives are safe for the vast majority of women, and that they are safer than many other medications that are already available over-the-counter.”

Some critics are worried that easier access to birth control could negatively affect teenagers. In a quote from Mercury News, the California Right to Life spokeswoman Camille Giglio said, “The ability to get contraceptives from yet another source is not a benefit to young people. It is a barrier to communication between a mother and a child.”

Other opponents told Mercury News they are concerned that women will have less incentives to make a regular checkup with their ob-gyn, or consult their doctors for possible risks and side effects of birth control.

And there are still some forms of birth control that require a doctor’s prescription, reported NBC7. This is the case for women who wish to get an IUD or a contraceptive implant, which requires a medical procedure.

Loren Skeen, a resident of Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County, told Mercury News that although she has mixed feelings about the law, she hopes it will empower women and help them to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

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