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Oregon Senate panel backs Buehler birth control bill


The Oregon Senate Rules Committee on Thursday approved a measure sponsored by Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, to allow women to purchase birth control without a doctor’s visit.

Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon from Bend, introduced the legislation earlier this session and led the bipartisan work group assigned to the concept.

“Oregon is one step closer to becoming the easiest place in the nation for women to access birth control,” said Buehler said. “Improving access to contraceptives will give women more options and more control over their health care needs.”

The legislation (HB 2879) would allow birth control to be sold behind the counter at local pharmacies without a physician visit and prescription.

A pharmacist could prescribe oral birth control or hormonal patches after completing a 20-question risk-screening assessment.

Lawmakers have given bipartisan support to the measure, but the Oregon Catholic Conference says they oppose it. They said they couldn’t support expanding access to contraception.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Board of Pharmacists would be responsible for structuring rules to ensure safe prescribing by pharmacists – includingbrief training for pharmacists, a self-screening test for contraindications, and notifying the customer’s primary care provider.

The contraceptives still would be covered by insurance, which is important to lower costs for consumers, Buehler said.

“Not only will this bill reduce unintended pregnancies and improve women’s health, but studies have shown that easy access to birth control is an important factor in reducing poverty as well,” Buehler said. “Clearly, this is what is best for women’s health in the 21 st century.”

HB 2879, which passed the Oregon House on a 50-10 vote earlier this month, now goes to the Senate floor for a full vote. If passed, Oregon would be the second state in the nation to pass such legislation, along with California.

Since California has yet to develop their administrative rules around the change, Oregon could become the first in the country to implement this historic expansion of access.

Last week, Oregon became the first state to require insurance companies to cover up to 12 months of birth control at a time.

Buehler said the two measures combined allow Oregon women to have the easiest access to birth control in the nation.

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