Michigan residents can now receive birth control prescriptions directly from local pharmacies, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in a statement late last month.
According to Whitmer, this change is possible because of a new policy from the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Pharmacists are now able to prescribe oral contraceptives, patches like Xulane and rings such as Annovera and NuvaRing if a doctor delegates the responsibility to the pharmacist. Previously, people seeking birth control could obtain prescriptions only from licensed physicians.
In a press release, Whitmer said expanded access to contraceptives is crucial because of the uncertainty of reproductive rights in Michigan following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Abortion remains legal in Michigan after a preliminary injunction blocked the enforcement of the state’s 1931 abortion ban, but this injunction has already been subject to multiple challenges.
“As reproductive freedom is under attack across the nation, we are using every tool in our toolbox here in Michigan to protect women,” Whitmer said. “Access to birth control is critical to a woman’s ability to plan her family and chart her own destiny. We are taking action to guarantee that Michigan women have the right to easily make reproductive health care decisions that are best for them.”
LSA senior Buu-Hac Nguyen is the co-president of the Lunar Doula Support Network, an organization that gives support to those in the midst of stillbirths, miscarriage and abortion in Southeast Michigan. The organization aims to spread awareness about sexual and reproductive equity, focusing on marginalized communities. Nguyen said while this policy is a slight improvement, it cannot resolve the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade alone.
“We think that this ability to prescribe hormonal birth control is a step forward through 100 steps back,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen also said this policy could help marginalized communities by making birth control more accessible.
“Marginalized communities don’t have access to birth control as easily,” Nguyen said. “With more access to birth control, hopefully it allows them to manage their own reproductive health and well-being, as easy as going to CVS or Walgreens.”
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandates that almost all insurance plans cover preventive care, including both over-the-counter and prescribed forms of birth control. Plans sold before the passage of the ACA in 2010 and grandfathered into the Obamacare marketplace are not required to abide by the preventive care mandate and may be exempt from covering the cost of birth control on the basis of religious or moral beliefs.
Currently, 21 states (excluding Michigan) allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, including California, Colorado, South Carolina and Idaho. A study of California’s policy found patients reported easier access to care and reduced costs, suggesting the new rule was effective in improving patient experiences.
In a statement to The Michigan Daily, Susan Ernst, chief of gynecology at University Health Services (UHS) highlighted the variety of birth control options currently available to students through UHS.
“University Health Service remains committed to ensuring students can access a range of reproductive and sexual health services, including common forms of contraception,” Ernst said. “Types of birth control that UHS clinicians can help students access include hormonal contraceptives (pill, ring, and patch), injections (Depo-Provera), implants (Nexplanon), non-hormonal diaphragms, and multiple forms of both hormonal and non-hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs).”
Ernst added that UHS plans to continue providing all of these services following this policy change but will also work to increase collaboration with local pharmacies to expand birth control access.
“For decades, UHS clinicians have worked with students to help them choose the birth control option that best fits their needs,” Ernst said. “UHS intends to explore ways to further increase access under the new state guidance.”
Daily Staff Reporters Caroline Wang and Samantha Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com