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Buehler bid to expand birth control access fails


A bid by state Rep. Knute Buehler to allow access to birth control without a doctor’s prescription failed to make it out of committee Friday, but the Bend Republican said he will continue working to address the issue.

The Oregon House Health Care Committee passed HB 2028, a measure to adjust the services pharmacists can provide. But it did not include Buehler’s amendment to let women buy birth control without a previous doctor’s visit.

Committee Chair Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, announced during the committee work session that Buehler will lead a work group to continue the discussion of access to birth control and additional opportunities. In response,

“I remain committed to expanding access to birth control for women,” Buehler said. “As a doctor, I believe improving access to birth control will give women more options and more control over their health care needs.

“While I am disappointed that we were unable to pass the amendment today, I look forward to working with my colleagues to find a solution. If we are unable to find consensus in the Senate, I will lead a work group during the interim and take up expanding access to birth control again in the 2016 session.

“Any time you propose a new, innovative idea, there is going to be hesitancy to make a change and challenge the status quo,” Buehler added. “However, studies have shown if you make oral contraceptives available at local pharmacies and give women more choices, you reduce unintended pregnancies and improve women’s health.

“Clearly this is what’s best for women’s health in the 21st century. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting more options and control for Oregon women.”

Buehler’s amendment would have allowed women 18 and older to buy birth control over the counter at a local pharmacy. The oral contraceptive would be prescribed by pharmacists, rather than doctors. For women to qualify, they would have to pass a self-screening check.

“This is really bringing women’s health care into the 21st century. It gives women more options and more control,” Beuhler said Friday.

The Oregon Health Authority says in 2010, 46.4 percent of new mothers in Oregon said they were not trying to get pregnant. Buehler says best practice shows a method like this reduces unwanted pregnancies by 25 percent.

But some pharmacists are still hesitant.

“I have mixed feelings, to be honest,” said Tara O’Keeffe, a pharmacist at Westside Pharmacy. She has been practicing for more than 30 years.

“Without blood workups, without history, without exams, there is so much I wouldn’t know,” O’Keeffe said.

She says sexual health is about more than just birth control. The cost worries her as well, because without a prescription, it could cost more.

Buehler says that’s not an option.

“This would not be out of pocket,” he said. “Insurance would have to cover this as they normally would.”

Buehler wants Oregon to become the first state to implement the proposal.

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