New NC Law Allows Contraceptives Without Prescription

Cary, NC — A section of North Carolina law that goes into effect today expands access to hormonal birth control without a prescription.

The law, House Bill 96, was approved by the majority Republican state legislature in August 2021 and was shortly thereafter signed by Governor Cooper.

The bill, in its entirety, also addresses several medical authorizations related to pharmacists and their ability to administer vaccines to minors with parental consent. While the majority of the law’s sections went into effect immediately last year, section 1 of the law was slated to take effect about 6 months later.

Easier Access to Birth Control in NC

This section provides a new level of access to contraceptives for people who do not have a doctor’s prescription and puts North Carolina on a list of more than a dozen states allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control pills and patches without the signature of a person’s physician.

The law stipulates that the patient would need to complete an assessment that is “consistent with the CDC’s U.S. medical eligibility criteria.”

This new legislation also explicitly prohibits pharmacists from distributing emergency contraceptives, such as the morning-after pill. However, that doesn’t change access much as these are currently available over the counter and without a prescription.

A pharmacists’ scope of practice is also further expanded in the bill to allow them to dispense HIV prevention medication, prenatal vitamins, glucagon to treat hypoglycemia and nicotine replacement therapy.

Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies

In a report from the News & Observer, one Republican senate member who supported the bill, Jim Burgin said this new legislation could prevent abortions in North Carolina. In his remarks, he said, “What can we do to prevent people from ever having to make that decision? And so the best way to do that is to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.”

The goals of the bill extend beyond Burgin’s comment though, as the new regulations could reduce the state’s unplanned pregnancy rate, remove barriers of time and cost that prevent some from seeking contraceptive health care options, and it actually could save taxpayers a pretty penny in the process, too.

A study from the Guttmacher Institute showed that taxpayers pay a steep price for unintended pregnancies as two-thirds of all births resulting from unintended pregnancies are paid for by public insurance programs, such as Medicaid. This equated to $12.5 billion in public costs for maternity and infant care in 2008.

Full Legislation

For those interested in the wording and details of the new legislation, here is the full ratified bill.

Story by Ashley Kairis.

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