People seeking out oral birth control in Colorado will now be able purchase the medication at a pharmacy without making a doctor’s appointment first.
The law that loosens the restriction was passed in 2016 and went into effect in August — making the Centennial State the third to streamline the process of acquiring birth control pills, along with California and Oregon.
The medication still has to be prescribed — but that can be done by a pharmacist. The process involves a consultation, a questionnaire, and a blood pressure check, according to the Associated Press.
Permitting pharmacies to sell oral birth control over the counter has become a bipartisan cause in recent years — though the parties disagree on how to make it work.
Many drug companies are wary to undergo the FDA’s approval process, which can be “lengthy and expensive” and includes the risk of incurring a political backlash, according to a 2015 Guttmacher Institute report.
Guttmacher, a reproductive health policy advocacy group, praised California and Oregon’s partial approach, while noting that it’s “unclear how pharmacists will be able to bill insurance companies for the costs of associated counseling and screening services.”
Also in 2015, Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) proposed a measure that would reward drug companies that filed applications to sell their oral contraceptives over the counter.
The plan, while supported by a half-dozen other GOP senators, was opposed by both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Planned Parenthood on the grounds that such a measure would force potential patients to “pay twice for their birth control,” if insurers no longer covered the medication as a result.
A separate plan, proposed by Democratic Senator Patty Murray in 2015, would have required insurers to cover oral contraceptives purchased over the counter.
Neither Gardner and Ayotte’s bill nor Murray’s bill passed.
This isn’t the first time Colorado has experimented with reforming the birth control delivery process.
In 2009, the state began offering free long-acting intra-uterine devices (IUDs) to residents. Teen pregnancies fell by over 40% over the same period.
For now, those who advocate lowering barriers to access have a new laboratory where they can study the potential benefits.
“People could be coming in to buy shampoo or vitamins, and they can have that conversation with a pharmacist,” pharmacist Kelsey Schwander told the Denver Post earlier this year in the run-up to the measure’s implementation.
For Coloradans who fear the expense of a doctor’s visit, it could be a conversation worth having.