Rochelle Rodney, 23, and Humyra Ali, 21, are organizers with the Birth Control Access Project in New York, which urges lawmakers around the country to pass legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control.
Growing up in East New York and Jamaica, Queens, we didn’t have comprehensive sex ed in our high schools—so we took matters into our own hands. When Rochelle was 15, she started working at Protecting The East, an organization that led street outreach to teach young people about STIs and healthy relationships. Humyra had spent her high school years volunteering at her local mosque and a number of private practices to better understand how social stigma, lack of health insurance, and education affect vulnerable people in her community. We learned that reproductive access isn’t just provided by doctors—everyone (including teenagers!) could play a role in expanding our reproductive rights. That’s why we’re working with young people across the country to push for pharmacist-prescribed birth control—an easy way to help young people get birth control at their local CVS or Walgreens.
Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, we need to use every avenue available to expand access to reproductive services. But for millions of young people across the country, doctor’s visits are prohibitively expensive. And for young people who rely on their parents for health insurance or are frequently uninsured, doctor’s visits are even less accessible. However, a vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a local pharmacy—meaning pharmacist-prescribed birth control would dramatically expand access to young people. Pharmacies are typically open evenings and weekends, providing more flexibility to young people who are often juggling jobs and school schedules. You don’t need an appointment, scheduled weeks in advance, to stop by the pharmacy on your way home. And for young people who have challenging relationships with or absent parents or simply don’t want to discuss their sex lives with their parents, pharmacist-prescribed birth control provides access without involving family members.
In the past few years, pharmacist-prescribed birth control has gained a foothold in states across the country—as legislators and state leaders realized this common-sense solution expands access to young people, as well as undocumented people and those living in rural communities. Right now, 24 states have either passed bills allowing pharmacist-prescribed birth control or are in the process of passing these bills.
With nearly 50 years of our constitutional right to abortion wiped off the books, lawmakers have made no secret that the attack on reproductive rights will continue. We need to use this moment to expand reproductive access at the state level. That’s why leaders across the country like us are organizing for pharmacist-prescribed birth control in even more states. In New York, we’re part of a group of more than 100 young people who help make up the New York Birth Control Access Project—where we meet with legislators and urge them to support a bill that would allow pharmacist-prescribed birth control and expand access to more than a million New Yorkers. In Rhode Island, advocates are pushing the Senate to approve pharmacist-prescribed birth control after the state’s House of Representatives approved the bill in March. And in Indiana, doctors are urging the Indiana state legislature to pass similar legislation for pharmacist-prescribed birth control as well.
We know expanding birth control access in pharmacies works. In a 2019 study of four states with pharmacist-prescribed birth control, women who were prescribed birth control by their pharmacist were younger and less likely to be insured. In Washington State, pharmacists have served more than three million patients for contraception—with services mostly paid for in cash or by Medicaid. In Oregon, almost three-fourths of Medicaid-enrolled patients who were prescribed birth control by pharmacists didn’t have a recent prescription—suggesting they were either new prescriptions or that the patients had experienced a lapse in birth control use.
Since the Supreme Court decision, we’ve both felt helpless at times. But we’ve also found strength and hope in organizing young people to expand reproductive freedom on the state level. After all, Roe v. Wade was first passed when women across the country came together and organized, tirelessly, year after year to demand our country protect the right to choose. Now, the Supreme Court has issued a direct attack on our civil rights —but that’s exactly why we need to keep fighting. From pharmacist-prescribed birth control, to state protections for abortion, to expanded access to emergency contraception, there are countless ways we must work to protect reproductive freedom on the state level. We hope you’ll join us in the fight.