Legislation is Just the Beginning: Increasing Access to Birth Control


Aireonna Fox

When this new legislation takes effect, birth control will be easier to access. At least, that’s the hope.

Bailey Van Wagoner, Business Manager, Managing Editor, Web Editor

In March of last year, Governor Herbert signed a law that gives women easier access to birth control. However, the law will only begin taking effect in the next few weeks due to the complicated process of making rules and enacting the legislation. This new legislation will affect many of the seniors at Copper Hills as the law addresses women as young as 18 years old.

Senate Bill 184 (SB 184) addressed the concerns of women and healthcare providers in increasing access to prescription birth control. It came to the attention of the legislature that the yearly renewal of a birth control prescription, with a visit to a doctor, was an inconvenience for patients. In some cases, it would limit access of women to their medication. They would have to go without their prescription for months while they waited for a doctor’s appointment. This issue deeply concerned patients and healthcare professionals alike.

With the new regulations, pharmacists will be allowed “to dispense a self-administered hormonal contraceptive under a standing prescription drug order” for two years. Put simply, a patient who is 18 years old or older can fill their birth control prescription for two years without seeing their doctor and paying for an expensive appointment. Once women heard that SB 184 had passed, they immediately went into their pharmacies to fill birth control prescriptions. They were turned away, however, because passing the bill is only one part of the complex legislative process that SB 184 had to endure to take effect in pharmacies.

Half of the battle is creating regulations that will allow pharmacists to be trained to dispense birth control on a standing prescription. Jessica Sanders, PhD, has had a large impact on these regulations. As the Director of Family Planning Research at the University of Utah, Sanders oversees the implementation and assessment of programs dealing with family planning and sexual welfare. She along with the Board of Pharmacists have worked on training and continuing education for pharmacists wanting to participate in the new regulations. Sanders has also been working with insurance companies to pay pharmacists for their time working with patients under this new law.

Once SB 184 takes effect, Sanders will “have to see if pharmacists are willing to do it and if they actually do do it,” she says. “This is one way to potentially have a coordinated effort to expand access… for certain people, but figuring out who those people are and how to tailor it to their needs is something we will continue to look at.” She hopes that this bill will lead the way for increased awareness and talk about sexual health and education. Sanders says she is, “trying to bring sex back into the conversation…I have a strong belief that sexuality is a human right and being able to figure out what is right for you is part of our ability to self determine.”

In addition to bringing the topic of sexual education to the public’s attention, this bill will increase access and even save the state money. Senator Todd Weiler, who was the Chief Sponsor of SB 184, said, “I think five years ago, it wouldn’t have passed, but I think the world and Utah is changing. People are more accepting of the fact that these things make sense, and they actually save the state money.” With fewer doctor’s visits, patients, insurance companies, and healthcare providers will save time as well as money when pharmacists can fill the prescription with only a quick questionnaire. Increased access will also prevent women from skipping months of birth control and risk an expensive unplanned pregnancy.

This law won’t sacrifice women’s health for the sake of access, however. Patients will still be required to receive a sexual wellness check-up every two years. This appointment will ensure that the patient is still in good health and allow the doctor to renew their prescription.

The training and questionnaires that pharmacists need to implement SB 184 will be ready in the coming weeks. And, in the next few years, this will affect Copper Hills’ female students as they reach adulthood and can utilize this new law for their preferred birth control method. While the commonly-known usage is for contraceptive purposes, these young adults may use birth control to regulate menstruation, ease cramps, manage endometriosis symptoms, alleviate acne, etc. SB 184 will help women to treat any number of conditions or symptoms with greater ease and may open the conversation about sexual wellness in the future.