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South Carolina lawmakers to consider whether women can get birth control without a prescription

March 6, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA -- Women in South Carolina could have easier access to some forms of birth control if a bill moves forward in a subcommittee of the House of Representatives this week.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, would change state law to make contraceptive patches and oral birth control pills available to women at least 18 years old without a prescription from a physician. It would also give women under the age of 18 access to those forms of contraception as long as they had a previous prescription from a physician.

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The intention of the bill is to make it easier and cheaper for women to obtain their birth control. Rutherford said women -- especially those who don’t have access to affordable health insurance -- shouldn’t have to pay for a doctors visit in order to obtain birth control.

“This is about the government getting out of the way of a woman’s access to healthcare,” Rutherford said.

Since the legislation does away with the need for prescriptions from a doctor, the bill also calls for new rules to be established for pharmacists in the state. It would create a new training program for pharmacists and require them to advise women to consult with their primary care physician or doctors at a women’s health clinic.

The bill would also develop a “self-screening risk assessment tool” that would have to be completed before a pharmacist could dispense the birth control. That self-screening tool, Rutherford said, would help women to avoid some of the side effects that can occur with the various forms of birth control.

The proposed law calls for the Board of Pharmacy to create these new rules with the help of the Board of Medical Examiners, the Board of Nursing, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Rutherford said he would rely on physicians, pharmacists and the pharmaceutical manufacturers to “perfect” the language of the bill to ensure that it increases access, while protecting the health of individuals using contraception.