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Illinois Allows Over-the-Counter Birth Control

Good news for Illinois women—pharmacists can now prescribe and dispense hormonal contraception, further expanding access to contraception and reinforcing women’s rights to make decisions regarding their own reproductive health.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 0135 into law at a press conference in Chicago in July. The law is effective January 2022. Under HB 0135, women can cut out the middleman—their physician—and go straight to their local pharmacy to receive prescribed, over the counter (OTC) hormonal birth control, including pills, patches and rings.

Prior to a consultation with the pharmacist, women will be asked to complete a health questionnaire to determine what type of contraception they should take. The Illinois law does not set a minimum age for patients who seek contraception.

"This legislation that I'm signing into law today makes Illinois one of the first states in the Midwest to provide birth control over the counter, making contraceptives all the more accessible and affordable in our state," Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. "In 2019, when I signed the Reproductive Health Act into law, I said that in Illinois we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman's right to choose. Today, we take yet another stand to fulfill that promise."

The new law requires pharmacists to receive training to counsel women on different hormonal contraceptives available to them. Additionally, the law mandates state-funded Medicaid insurance to cover the contraceptive prescribed and dispensed by the pharmacist.

While Illinois just signed its law into effect, giving pharmacists prescriptive authority for hormonal contraception is gaining momentum across the nation. Currently, 17 states and D.C. grant pharmacists the right to prescribe hormonal birth control.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2020 Women’s Health Survey, a whopping 65% of reproductive aged women are comfortable with pharmacists prescribing birth control, and 70% support making birth control available OTC.

"At a time when access to reproductive health care is being denied in many states across the country and debated before the Supreme Court, and when access to this much-needed health care is limited by expanding hospital conglomerates that deny basic care for women, we applaud Illinois policy makers for making contraceptives available at the community level, in a pharmacy," said Khadine Bennett, Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.

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