South Carolina passes law allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives

South Carolina this week joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in passing a law allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills without a doctor’s visit.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who said earlier this month that he would support a complete ban on all abortions without exception if the US Supreme Court’s ruling guaranteeing abortion rights is overturned, said told reporters that he supported the birth control bill because it would lay the groundwork for eliminating abortions in the state.

“If South Carolina wants to be a pro-life state, we need to empower people to avoid unwanted pregnancies,” McMaster told reporters last week about her plans to sign the bill, according Post and courier.

Similar to pharmacy access laws in other states, South Carolina‘s new law allows pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives without a doctor’s visit or prescription, making “the pill,” as hormonal pills, and other self-administered hormonal contraceptives are often called more accessible and affordable. South Carolina law allows pharmacists to opt out of the program if they choose.

As of 2016, 15 states and the District of Columbia have implemented programs allowing pharmacies to access contraception: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Laws allow anyone to obtain birth control pills from a pharmacy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports access to birth control and abortion, programs that allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives without a doctor’s visit have been shown to be safe and effective.

Yet other state lawmakers who oppose abortion signal plans to limit access to certain types of contraception.

More than 19 million women of childbearing age in the United States in need of publicly funded contraception live in areas without easy access to health centers offering a full range of contraceptive methods, according Power to Decide, an organization that helps guide people to available contraceptives.

A 2019 study in four states showed that women who were prescribed contraceptives by pharmacists were younger, had less education and were more likely to be uninsured. According to a report healthcare consultants Manatt Health.

The South Carolina law is slated to take effect in December and gives state pharmacy regulators six months to draft rules for participation, including education and reporting requirements.