Newsbreak

Illinois governor signs bill allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control with no physician involvement

pharmacist

UPDATE, 7/22/21: Today, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed HB 0135 into law. Upon signing the bill, Pritzker stated, according to WANDTV.com:

This legislation that I’m signing into law today makes Illinois one of the first states in the Midwest to provide birth control over the counter, making contraceptives all the more accessible and affordable in our state.

In 2019, when I signed the Reproductive Health Act into law, I said that in Illinois, we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman’s right to choose. Today, we take yet another stand to fulfill that promise.

Democratic Senator Melinda Bush claimed upon the bill’s signing, “It’s simple: Birth control saves lives and prevents unplanned pregnancy. Family planning and reproductive health care is a personal choice that should not be limited by economic or social status,” thanking the governor and Legislature for “creating a more equitable health care system through providing greater access to contraceptives.”

7/4/21: Legislation that would allow Illinois pharmacists to directly dispense birth control — including to minors — without a physical exam or any other previous doctor-patient contact has passed both the state House and Senate and is likely to be signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker.

Under the bill, pharmacists will undergo training about birth control dispensation and counseling. After a patient fills out a questionnaire at a pharmacy, the pharmacist will use the answers to make a judgment as to whether or not the patient is eligible for birth control. If eligible, the pharmacist will advise the patient on their options. NPR Illinois noted that the bill applies to hormonal contraception, including the Pill, transdermal patch, and vaginal ring, and not to non-hormonal devices like the IUD. No mention was made of whether the birth control implant Nexplanon would be administered, but it is a form of hormonal contraception.

Since many women experience a varying range of side effects and often switch birth control methods multiple times before settling on one that seems to cause the least harm, the question remains: who will women be referred to for ongoing follow-up and continuity of care regarding birth control? The prescribing pharmacist?

READ: Man didn’t give bus seat to pregnant single mom because ‘birth control and abortions are free’

In addition to bypassing the doctor altogether, the bill contains no age restrictions, meaning minors will have access to birth control with no requirement that a parent would accompany them to the consultation with the pharmacist. In such situation, parents may only learn their child has been given birth control when a problem occurs. Minors will be expected to report details about their family’s health history, including history of blood clots, due to the increased risk of life-threatening blood clots with hormonal birth control use. It is unknown whether pharmacists will be expected to explain the blood clot risk as well as the increased risk of new-onset depression and even suicidal ideation to minor girls.

Just two weeks ago, Live Action News reported on a woman who as a teen suffered a massive stroke and went into a coma after developing a blood clot linked to her birth control. A previous report noted the 2019 death of a 20-year-old woman who developed blood clots related to her NuvaRing hormonal birth control. Other women have also died from blood clots caused by their hormonal birth control.

Brigid Leahy, senior director of public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, celebrated the bill, insisting that its passage will lead to increased contraceptive access as well as decreased unplanned pregnancies in the state, which currently comprise 41% of all pregnancies. She was unfazed by the obvious safety issue of dispensing birth control to minors sans physical exam, blood work, or any other form of doctor-patient or doctor-patient-parent contact.

Leahy claimed, “We have decades of evidence to show that young people can effectively use birth control. We should not be denying them access.” Yet May 2021 fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute found that despite the fact that 83% of teens use birth control, that same age group has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At present, 16 states and Washington, D.C. allow dispensation of birth control unrelated to a doctor’s visit or relationship.

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