“Under federal civil rights law, pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth,” the new guidance reads. Under the Affordable Care Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, any pharmacy receiving federal funding (which means filling prescriptions under Medicare) can’t discriminate on the basis of personal beliefs “in regard to supplying medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of a prescribed medication for a patient; or advising patients about medications and how to take them.”
Patients who experience this discrimination at a pharmacy can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights, which will investigate and pursue “corrective action” with the pharmacy.
In better birth control news, while it’s still legal anyway, a pharmaceutical company based in Paris, HRA Pharma, could be the first authorized provider of over-the-counter birth control, meaning no prescription necessary. The pill contains only progestin, not estrogen, and if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves it—which it definitely needs to do—it could make access to effective birth control much better.
In a surprising development, South Carolina has chosen to be one of the states leading on making birth control available without a prescription, even before the FDA decides on that new forum. It passed the “Pharmacy Access Act” this session, which was signed into law by Gov. Harry McMaster, who told reporters: “If South Carolina wants to be a pro-life state, then we must provide the means for people to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and that law makes it easier to do that, so that’s a good step.”
It’s only available to people with private health insurance or Medicaid, however, which does mean that uninsured or underinsured people will still face barriers obtaining it. There will also be the potential problem of pharmacists refusing to provide it, since it still is South Carolina. But it’s progress in one of the most unlikely of states. We’ll take it.