Assembly approves end of prescriptions for birth control

Legislation that would allow contraception to be sold without a doctor’s prescription is being sent to the state Senate for a third consecutive year.

A.1060 was passed by a 109-37 vote in the state Assembly this week. The bill was also passed in 2021 and 2022 but hasn’t been approved by the state Senate in either of those years. It was first introduced in 2016.

The legislation is sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, and would allow physicians and nurse practitioners to order a non-patient specific order to a pharmacist to dispense birth control as well as allowing a licensed pharmacist to execute a non-patient specific order for the dispensing of birth control. Pharmacists would be required to provide the patient with a self-screening risk assessment questionnaire and a fact sheet. Both documents would be developed by the state health and education commissioners.

“I just want to make it clear why I am opposed to this,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Syracuse. “This bill says a prescription can be written for a 12 month of a supply of whatever oral contraception is required. So once a year the woman or girl is going to have to go to the pharmacy and get their year’s worth of medication. I believe there needs to be access. I think there need to be a lot of conversations with our girls, our daughters, about safe sex and STDs. I just don’t want to take doctors completely out of the equation as they are here. I think doctors are important. I think (pharmacists) are too and I think with all due respect to my colleague who is a pharmacist I think doctors are important and the trend I’m kind of seeing with a lot of these bills is an erosion of the role of the doctors to develop a patient relationship.”

Similar legislation was signed into law in New Jersey earlier this year and goes into effect in May. There are no residency requirements under the new law, so New Jersey pharmacists could dispense the contraceptives regardless of where a person lives, the governor said. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia permit pharmacists to offer contraceptives, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Indiana state legislature after an amendment fell short by one vote last summer.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo and Assembly majority leader, said she shared some of the preferences made by those who oppose the expansion but noted the increasing frequency with which the topic of contraception is coming before legislature.

“I have listened to most of the debate here today and everybody has an opinion on this topic,” Peoples-Stokes said. “I actually believe this is a topic that should be discussed in somebody’s kitchen or bedroom between the family whose making the decisions to use this, but unfortunately this is an issue that does come before government on a regular basis. I am proud to be part of government that will vote in support of it.”

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voted against the legislation. He seconded many of the concerns raised by Walsh while also disagreeing with the lack of a requirement covering information other than contraception.

“There’s no requirement for discussion about sexually transmitted disease,” Goodell said. “There’s no physical examination. There’s no required discussion of the effectiveness — and it’s well known the pill loses its effectiveness over time. There’s no required discussion of other alternatives whether it’s safe sex or other types of birth control. There’s no real requirement for detailed documentation accompanies by a physical examination, which is the safest way to do it. There’s no discussion or required discussion about the dangers of STDs and obviously if it’s a young girl who’s coming in who is just becoming sexually active that’s a very very important discussion. And I don’t imagine that discussion is going to be conducted by a pharmacist while there’s a line waiting behind the young woman and the pharmacist is going to what — start talking about safe sex? Other alternatives?”


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