DC Council Passes Women's Health, Birth Control Access Bill

The D.C. Council unanimously passed a health bill that would allow women to get birth control without a doctor’s prescription, leaving the mayor and Congress to accept or reject the measure.

The Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act of 2017 would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, meaning women wouldn’t have to schedule a doctor’s visit for a prescription. D.C. would be the eighth state to support such a law, NBC Washington reported in December.

Insurers would also be required to pay for contraceptives under the law.

The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who must sign it ahead of a 30-day congressional review. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

“No other state or local jurisdiction in the country has to worry that a random congressman is going to try and meddle with a locally-passed law,” Council member Charles Allen, who authored the bill, said in a statement. “But I am worried that with a congress obsessed with overturning a law that protects women from being charged more for basic care, we need to be ready to fight back and say hands off DC.”

The bill does not specify how pharmacists could prescribe birth control, nor does it lay out who would be eligible to get birth control directly from the pharmacy. The D.C. Board of Pharmacy will be tasked with making specific rules and regulations if the bill passes mayoral and congressional scrutiny.

The bill also aims to enshrine other provisions of the Affordable Care Act into local law in case the federal bill is repealed.

Under the law, insurance companies would be required to pay for a number of preventative health services, including breast cancer, diabetes and HIV screenings; well-woman exams; counseling for domestic violence survivors and breastfeeding support. Insured residents could access those services without paying anything out of pocket.

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