Lawmakers looking to make birth control more accessible in SC

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Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 8:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolinians may soon be able to skip a trip to the doctor’s office to get a prescription for birth control.

A bill moving through the State House would let pharmacists directly dispense birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives without needing a doctor’s prescription, as they currently do after an in-person or virtual visit.

More than a dozen states already allow this, including North Carolina, which approved the measure earlier this year.

Supporters argue it would save women time and money by saving them additional trips to the physician.

“Hormonal contraceptives can be used safely by almost all women, and increased access to contraceptives would be beneficial,” said Dr. Dawn Bingham, a Columbia OB-GYN and member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Pharmacies would be able to opt out if they do not want to offer this option, and pharmacists would also need additional certification and continuing education to dispense birth control without a doctor’s prescription.

In response to concerns that women would miss their recommended annual trip to the gynecologist if they did not need to visit to obtain birth control, the bill would also require doctors provide information to women receiving contraceptives about the importance of these visits.

Democratic Rep. Russell Ott of Calhoun County said this legislation should take the politics out of the conversation on preventing abortions.

“If we’re going to decrease the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, then we’ve got to get real and start doing things like this,” Ott said.

Ott also told a group of his colleagues that this change in requirement would especially be beneficial in the more rural areas of South Carolina, including his own district, where doctors may not be as accessible but pharmacists likely are.

Groups including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the South Carolina Pharmacy Association back these changes, which received unanimous approval in the state Senate last year, the first year of the current two-year legislative session.

“Considering South Carolina has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country and one of the primary ways to decrease unintended pregnancies is to increase access to hormonal contraception, we feel this bill will go a long way to addressing this important and critical public health issue,” Dr. Patti Fabel of the South Carolina Pharmacy Association said.

The bill needs two more key votes of approval — first to advance out of the House 3-M Committee and then to pass the full House of Representatives — to head to the governor’s desk.

There are nine days left on the legislative calendar to get those approvals, but the first, at the committee level, could come as early as Tuesday.

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