SALT LAKE CITY — Women in Utah will soon be able to get birth control directly from a pharmacist rather than visiting a doctor each time they want to obtain or renew a prescription, a move taken by only a few other states.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed a measure into law Tuesday allowing those 18 and older to get pills, the patch and some other contraceptive devices, putting Utah in line with a handful of other states that have passed similar laws, including California, Colorado and Oregon.
"I think five years ago, it wouldn't have passed, but I think the world and Utah is changing," Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who sponsored the measure, said Wednesday. "People are more accepting of the fact that these things make sense, and they actually save the state money."
The new law, which unanimously passed the Utah Legislature, takes effect May 8. It will require women to first fill out a form assessing their risks of taking birth control before getting the medication. They also will be required to check in with a doctor every two years to keep getting contraception.
The measure allows pharmacists to issue the birth control under a standing prescription — similar to an order the state issued in 2016 allowing pharmacists to distribute an opioid anti-overdose drug over the counter.
Public health officials say studies have shown that unplanned births can lead more money to be spent on social programs like Medicaid, which covers the costs of about one-third of all births in Utah.
Medical groups, including the Utah Medical Association and Utah Nurses Association, spoke in support of the birth control measure.
Kathleen Kaufman with the nurses association told lawmakers that nurse practitioners said the legislation would particularly help women living in rural areas who may not be able to easily visit doctors.
Weiler said he proposed the bill after a University of Utah pharmacy graduate student suggested it.
On a national level, Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, has introduced legislation in Congress that would allow women to get birth control over the counter. Love has said her proposal, which has not yet had a hearing, gives women more access and more choices when it comes to family planning.
Utah's birth control measure got the governor's approval the same day he signed another proposal that could cover the costs of intrauterine devices and other family planning assistance for low-income women.
Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who sponsored that measure, said the state was one of seven that didn't offer family planning coverage for the poor.