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Assemblymember Holly Mitchell Urges FDA to Approve Over-the-Counter Contraceptives

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says birth control pills are safe to dispense over the counter.

Following an endorsement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to dispense hormonal birth control pills without a prescription, Assemblymember Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) is calling for preparations to begin now to offer improved access as soon as the FDA allows.

"On Jan. 1 registered nurses begin to dispense contraceptives to women in clinics for the first time in California," said Mitchell, whose bill, AB 2348, allowing RNs to provide contraceptives in clinics was signed into law in September.

The law expands access to family planning options by establishing a protocol under which more patients, especially in under-served rural and inner-city areas, can obtain hormonal birth control.

"That was a hard-won victory amidst the right-wing 'war on women.' Now let’s make birth control an over-the-counter option," Mitchell said in an official statement.

ACOG’s recommendation that hormonal birth control is safe enough to be dispensed without prescription raises the prospect of much broader access to contraception but does not resolve it, according to Mitchell’s office. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) must still review it and remove it from its list controlled substances.

"The private sector should be eager to fund studies for FDA review, but California should encourage the process both by offering non-proprietary input and by ensuring a ready and regulation-friendly oversight process," Mitchell said. 

Mitchell’s office stated that cost barriers in receiving the prescriptions also need to be discussed, because while prescription birth control is currently a required benefit under most employee benefit insurance plans, over the counter medications are not currently covered.

"Prescriptions are one barrier, cost is another. Both must be addressed to broaden access," Mitchell said.

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