Pharmacists could soon prescribe birth control; health officials have concerns

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Republican lawmakers announced a new proposal that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills. Legislators say the goal is to give women more choices for reproductive care but some health officials have concerns.

Under current state law only doctors can prescribe hormonal birth control but this new proposal could change that. "Definitely access to birth control is a good thing, I think that sometimes we have to go through hoops and things and sometimes that can create barriers," said Lauren Bresina, Family Nurse Practitioner at Willow Creek Women’s Clinic in Eau Claire.

Bresina says while expanding access to birth control would have its benefits it also raises some red flags from a medical standpoint.

"When I’m prescribing birth control, whether it’s a pill or a NuvaRing or an IUD or anything like that ...there's really a lot that goes into that,” said Bresina. Under the bill proposal, in order to receive a prescription from the pharmacy patients would have to fill out a self-assessment questionnaire and undergo a blood pressure screening.

"I really think that it would be better if a patient is seen by a provider to figure out what would be the best birth control, what are the risks and benefits ...there are so many different options that people can have a lot of underlying health conditions ...why they can't be on a certain birth control,” said Bresina.

Lawmakers are seeking legislative support for the proposal and say the goal is to give women more choices for reproductive care and reduce unplanned pregnancies.

Bresina says it’s important that women still get their annual check-ups. "Just being able to physically touch the patient, listen to their heart and lungs, through the physical exam, get a really thorough history I think is of up most importance before starting any type of birth control pill," she said.

The bill was introduced just a day before the assembly was set to debate a package of republican-authored anti-abortion legislation, including a measure that would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Democrats say the anti-abortion legislation will reduce women's access to health care.