Tag Archives: Birth Control

Tenn. GOP State Sen.’s Bill Would Let Women Buy Birth Control Without Doctor Visit

Last week, Tenn. Republican State Senator Dr. Steven Dickerson of District 20 in Nashville introduced Senate Bill 1677, a proposal aimed at allowing women to purchase birth control directly from pharmacists without first obtaining a doctor’s prescription.

Dr. Dickerson, an anesthesiologist, wrote in an op-ed in The Tennessean, “By some accounts, almost half of pregnancies are either unintentional or ‘mistimed.’ We need to do better. One logical solution is to make contraception easier to obtain. Easier access to contraception will lead to higher use, and higher use will lead to fewer unintended pregnancies.

Dickerson’s bill would stop just short of making birth control over-the-counter, but instead would allow pharmacists to provide the medication directly to women without a doctor’s prescription after “reviewing a list of possible risks and risk factors” with them. He characterized this type of process where a pharmacist prescribes birth control as “behind-the-counter.”

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Under the current system, birth control pills require a physician’s prescription. While this might not seem like a significant impediment to some, even the simple act of going to a doctor’s appointment can be so expensive or time-consuming that it acts as a barrier to many, and can even impose an impossible burden to meet for women without health insurance,” said Sen. Dickerson.

A 2012 opinion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated, “A potential way to improve contraceptive access and use, and possibly decrease unintended pregnancy rates, is to allow over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives (OCs)… Weighing the risks versus the benefits based on currently available data, OCs should be available over-the-counter. Women should self-screen for most contraindications to OCs using checklists.

Sen. Dickerson added, “While all medications have side effects and risks, by some measures, oral contraceptives’ risks remain lower than the risks of pregnancy. At the very least, the risk is low enough that adults, in proper consultation with a pharmacist, can make an informed decision about the appropriateness of utilizing these medications.

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He also pointed out that even when not required to visit the doctor to obtain birth control, “data show women continue to seek routine gynecologic screening.

According to Slate, Oregon and California recently enacted similar bills.

In addition to the primary goal of decreasing unintended pregnancies, SB 1677 has the added benefit of decreasing health care costs and increasing individual freedom, both of which I believe to be worthwhile goals,” argued Sen. Dickerson.

Federal Court: Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate Violates Religious Freedom

A federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled on Thursday that the contraception coverage mandate required by the Affordable Care Act and paid for by a government subsidy, as well as the opt-out process for religiously affiliated employers, violates the employers’ religious freedom.

That coverage, which is paid for by a government subsidy, was struck down by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals after four Christian nonprofits- Heartland Christian College, CNS International Ministries Inc, Dordt College and Cornerstone University- filed lawsuits against it, noting that they object to emergency contraceptives.

The court ruled that the employers should not have to include contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans, and that forcing the employees to seek individual exemptions to the law, puts a “substantial burden” on their religious rights.

The Hill reported that the court’s ruling “includes 30 references to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the 2014 Supreme Court case that allowed certain for-profit companies to opt out of the mandate,” which led to several nonprofits filing lawsuits seeking the same permission.

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The current law states that employers must provide contraceptive coverage for their employees or they must pay a fine, and if they choose to go through the process of opting out of the requirement, the coverage has to be provided by the insurers.

The Associated Press reported that since Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, “roughly 100 lawsuits from businesses and religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals and other not-for-profit organizations” have been filed, challenging the contraceptives requirement.

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In response to the ruling, a spokeswoman for the White House said that the Obama administration is “disappointed” and claimed that “as all of the other seven courts of appeals to address this issue have held,” the current process “strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs.”

Reuters noted that this court’s decision differs from all other appeals courts that have considered the issue, which makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will issue a ruling at some point in its coming term, between October and June.