Getting birth control just got easier in California — and will soon be easier for Cal Poly students as well. Women seeking birth control pills, patches, shots and vaginal rings can now get them over the counter at pharmacies — no prescription or doctor’s appointment required.
By the end of Fall 2016, students will likely be able to get over-the-counter birth control at the Health Center, Executive Director of Campus Health and Wellbeing Dr. David Harris said.
“We don’t want any barriers to birth control, Harris said. “We want every woman to have access to birth control. That is our premise.”
California joins Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. in this step toward reducing unintended pregnancies. Those seeking birth control can access it with no age minimum, just by filling out a health questionnaire and getting their blood pressure taken at a pharmacy.
Pharmacists at the Health Center will have to take a course, typically online, to be prepared to administer birth control, Harris said.
“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t think the doctor does much more than what the pharmacist will do when they give you birth control,” child development senior Amanda Chausse said.
Over-the-counter birth control will give young women more freedom, psychology junior Jordan Britt said.
“I think in a young woman’s sense, it’s nice because you don’t have to tell your parents that you need to see a gynecologist,” Britt said.
Not everyone is supportive of this new law. Critics say many women will not get checked by a doctor if they can walk up to a pharmacy window and get birth control on their own. When a woman has never taken birth control before, it is helpful for her to see a doctor, Harris said, especially since consultations are free at the Health Center.
“I think (the law) a step in the right direction, but it’s requiring the patient to make an awful lot of decisions like picking what medication is appropriate,” Harris said. “I would prefer to have an expert help each patient make those initial decisions.”
Seeing a doctor would also be useful if the patient is having complications with their birth control, Harris said. He also added that people still need to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and get tested for them.
Britt and Chausse said they would recommend over-the-counter birth control to friends, but still encourage them to see a doctor.
“I would tell my friends you can get it really easily. But I would give them information if they want to talk to a doctor before,” Britt said.
Birth control is currently available at the Health Center with a prescription and is less expensive than a traditional medical office because the Health Center does not make a profit, Harris said. The Health Center runs off of the Student Health Fee, which is $100 per student per quarter, plus a $3 facility fee.
Condoms, the primary male birth control method, are available over-the-counter at the Health Center. The morning-after pill, commonly referred to as “Plan B,” is also available without a prescription.
According to the Health Center’s 2016 birth control sheet, one month of birth control pills can cost anywhere from $7-19, two months costs between $12-35 and three months will be anywhere between $17-45. The Health Center will also order a specific type of birth control pills that a student needs if it is not already in stock, Harris said.
“The premise is that every service we offer in the health center we make no profit,” Harris said. “When we sell any medications through the pharmacy, they are at cost and there is no profit added on.”
This new law will be helpful for women who move often, Harris said.
“It’s going to make it easier for women who don’t regularly have a physician or provider that they see,” Harris said. “They can get their birth control wherever they are, and I suspect that most pharmacy chains will only have you fill out that information once and then it will be on their records.”