Access to contraception empowers people to decide whether and when to become pregnant, influencing their health and well-being and supporting their reproductive autonomy. Contraception is widely used in the United States—the pill is the most common method, while an increasing number of people are using other hormonal methods. Many people could benefit from increased access to these methods. “Pharmacy access” laws authorize pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives, which can make contraceptive care more accessible and affordable by eliminating the need for a separate visit to a health care provider to obtain a prescription. Importantly, pharmacist prescribing of contraceptives has been proven to be safe and effective.
In 2016, states began to implement pharmacy access policies for contraception. The language of the laws varies: Some do not name particular methods, some mention specific methods such as the patch or the pill, and some refer to the broader category of self-administered hormonal contraceptives. These laws usually allow any individual to seek contraceptive care at a pharmacy, although some prohibit or limit access for those who are 17 years old or younger. Some states require pharmacists to receive training in contraceptive care. State requirements differ, but patients may receive one or more of the following: educational materials, counseling from the pharmacist or a self-screening risk assessment tool that determines their eligibility for a particular method. Pharmacists in states where these laws have been passed can choose whether to provide contraceptive care, although some states also explicitly allow pharmacists to opt out.
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- 13 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to provide contraceptive care.
- 10 states specify the contraceptive methods that pharmacists are allowed to prescribe.
- 5 states prohibit or limit pharmacist prescribing for patients who are 17 years old or younger.
- 5 states require a patient to see a primary care provider after a specific period of time to continue receiving contraceptives from a pharmacist.
- 9 states and DC place requirements on pharmacists regarding training or patient care.
- 9 states and DC require pharmacists to receive training.
- 7 states and DC require pharmacists to provide educational materials.
- 6 states and DC require pharmacists to provide counseling.
- 9 states and DC require pharmacists to use a screening tool to determine patient eligibility.
3 states explicitly allow pharmacists to refuse to prescribe contraceptives.