Bill to Ease Access to Birth Control Introduced

By Tim Persinko
|  Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011  |  Updated 12:03 PM EDT
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Federal Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn on Monday concluded that the FDA had played politics in its decisions over the past few years regarding the contraceptive known as Plan B.

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In a city noted for its liberal access to birth control, Council Member David Catania would like to make it even easier for women to obtain contraception pills.

His new measure, introduced to the District Council on Tuesday, would allow women to pick up birth control medicine directly from a pharmacist without a doctor's prescription.

"This legislation will ensure greater access to health care options for thousands of District women who might otherwise be forced to go without," Catania said in a press release.

Catania said many communities in D.C. are underserved by health care providers, and getting an appointment to see a doctor can take weeks or months.  The bill, introduced as the Pharmacy Access Amendment Act,  would give the city's Board of Pharmacy and Board of Medicine authorization to set up guidelines for consumers to pick up hormonal birth control without going to the doctor's office.

In Catania's plan, women would have a consultation with a pharmacist, rather than make a separate trip to the doctor, before obtaining birth control medications.  Such prescriptions would not be accessible over the counter.

The proposed regulation leaves many details up in the air, such as the age of women eligible.

The distribution of birth control falls under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration.  An official said at first glance, the bill would fall in a gray area. 

"It's not something we can definitely speak about as it being against F.D.A. regulations," Shelly Burgess, an F.D.A. spokeswoman told the Washington Post.  "It depends."

In Oregon, a similar program was tested for several years, where consumers consulted with a doctor or physician over the phone, and received birth control prescriptions by applying online.  That program was discontinued last year.

"This is not going to be the Wild West," said Catania to the Post. "Pharmacists are extraordinarily overeducated for what they do on a day-in and day-out basis. There is a lot of capacity for a pharmacist to do more than they do."

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