Family

No, you shouldn't need a doctor to get birth control. Just look at Oregon.

Oregon and California now allow for women to get the birth control pill without a prescription. Will other states follow?

No, you shouldn't need a doctor to get birth control. Just look at Oregon.

In its more than 55-year history, birth control pills have been available only by prescription in the U.S.

And in that time, the pill has become the go-to contraceptive choice for sexually active women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 4 in 5 sexually experienced women have at one point taken the pill. It's considered highly effective, with a more than 90% success rate.

Still, despite its popularity and track record of relative safety, the process of actually acquiring hormonal contraceptives has required women to get prescriptions.


Planned Parenthood publicity director Marcia Goldstein looks at New York bus ads in December 1967. Services like those provided by Planned Parenthood have helped low-income women access birth control for decades. Photo by H. William Tetlow/Fox Photos/Getty Images.

For women in Oregon who use the pill, getting a refill just got a lot easier.

In July, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2879 into law, granting pharmacists the right to dispense oral contraception without a prescription. That law went into action Jan. 1, making Oregon the first in the nation to cut out the middleman (the doctor) in this low-risk transaction.

"Oregon has the rare opportunity to drive the national conversation around women’s health, family security, and poverty," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Knute Buehler. "This will become landmark legislation that reduces unplanned pregnancies, gives women more control, and affirms Oregon’s reputation as a leader in health care innovation."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law on July 6, 2015. Photo by Matt Mills McKnight-Pool/Getty Images.

21% of low-income women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy are likely to use the pill if it's available without a prescription.

That's according to a 2015 study published in the health journal Contraception. Additionally, researchers found that making the pill available for free and without a prescription would reduce the number of women using no birth control or less effective methods by 20-36% and bring down the number of unintended pregnancies by 7-25%.

Fewer unintended pregnancies is a win for everyone.

Photo from iStock.

The new law also makes additional training available for pharmacists.

Some of the law's opponents have expressed concern that pharmacists may not be equipped to handle certain situations. After all, if the pill has required a prescription all this time, there must be a reason for that, right?

"Oregon has the rare opportunity to drive the national conversation around women’s health, family security, and poverty." — State Rep. Knute Buehler

Well, it's not as though the pill isn't without some risk — all medications have some risk of side effects. It is possible that hormonal birth control can lead to blood clots, heart attack, high blood pressure, or stroke — and it's important to take those risks seriously.

But that's not reason enough to keep the pill hidden behind a doctor's prescription pad. After all, other safe medications have made the shift from prescription-only to over-the-counter — such as Flonase, Nexium, Allegra, Zyrtec, Mucinex, Claritin, nicotine patches, and, well, you get the point.

To assuage those concerns, the bill's supporters included a provision that will ensure pharmacists are qualified and informed on the topic of birth control, side effects, and risk factors.

Photo by iStock.

Other states aren't far behind Oregon.

In 2013, California passed a similar bill. Ever since, the state's Board of Pharmacy has worked to develop a plan of action for pharmacists. Beginning Jan. 1, pharmacists in California began dispensing birth control without a doctor's prescription. California's plan differs from Oregon's in a few minor ways, but the sentiment is the same: one less barrier to women's health care.

Lawmakers in Colorado and Washington also have taken up similar legislation.

Photo by iStock.

As other states put additional restrictions on reproductive health care, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Washington stand out for doing the opposite.

In a time when reproductive health care is under attack in many states, it's heartening to know some are doing what they can to expand access to essential, vital care. If Oregon's and California's new laws wind up being successes, there's hope other states will follow suit.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

When you picture a ballerina, you may not picture someone who looks like Lizzy Howell. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Howell is busting stereotypes and challenging people's ideas of what a dancer should look like just by being herself and doing her thing in her own body. The now-19-year-old from Delaware has been dancing since she was five and has performed in venues around the world, including Eurovision 2019. She has won scholarships and trains up to four hours a day to perfect her skills in various styles of dance.

Jordan Matter Photography shared a documentary video about Howell on Facebook—part of his "Unstoppable" series—that has inspired thousands. In it, we get to see Howell's impressive moves and clear love of the art form. Howell shares parts of her life story, including the loss of her mother in a car accident when she was little and how she was raised by a supportive aunt who helped her pursue her dance ambitions. She also explained how she's had to deal with hate comments and bullying from people who judge her based on her appearance.

"I don't think it's right for people to judge off of one thing," Howell says in the video. And she's right—her size is just one thing.

Keep Reading Show less