South Carolina this week joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting a law that allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills without a doctor’s visit.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who earlier this month said he would support a complete ban on all abortions with no exceptions if the U.S. Supreme Court ruling ensuring the right to abortion is overturned, told reporters he supported the birth control bill because it would lay the groundwork for eliminating abortions in the state.
“If South Carolina wants to be a pro-life state, we must provide the means for people to avoid unwanted pregnancies,” McMaster told reporters last week about his intentions to sign the bill, according to The Post and Courier.
Like pharmacy access statutes in other states, South Carolina’s new law allows pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives without a doctor’s visit or prescription, making “the pill,” as hormone pills are often known, and other self-administered hormonal contraceptives more accessible and affordable. South Carolina’s law allows pharmacists to opt out of the program if they choose.
Since 2016, 15 states and the District of Columbia have implemented programs allowing pharmacy access to contraception: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
The laws allow anyone to obtain birth control pills at a pharmacy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports access to birth control and abortion, programs allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control without a doctor’s visit have proven safe and effective.
Still, other state lawmakers who oppose abortion are signaling their intentions to limit access to certain types of contraception.
More than 19 million women of reproductive age in the United States in need of publicly funded contraception live in areas without easy access to health centers offering a full range of contraceptive methods, according to Power to Decide, an organization that helps guide people to available birth control.
A 2019 study of four states showed that women who were prescribed contraceptives by pharmacists were younger, had less education and were more likely to be uninsured. Pharmacy access to contraception may help reduce reproductive health disparities among Black women and people living in rural areas, according to a report from health care consultants Manatt Health.
South Carolina’s law is slated to take effect in December and gives state pharmacy regulators six months to write rules for participation, including training and reporting requirements.