Over-the-counter birth control coming to West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Soon women in West Virginia will be able to get birth control over the counter.

House Bill 2583 passed and went into effect in West Virginia last week. The bill is referred to as the 'Family Planning Access Act.'

With this bill, women will be able to have access to birth control without seeing a gynecologist. Instead, they will be able to go straight to a pharmacist.

Del. Jordan Hill, D-Nicholas, was the lead sponsor of this bill. He says he's hoping this reduces the amount of abortions in the state, as well as the number of children who end up in the state foster care system.

"I think it is critical for women to get regular check-ups and exams, but sometimes it requires months of waiting to get in to even see a gynecologist and women shouldn't have to wait months to take care of their reproductive health," Hill said.

Mary Fitzgerald, a Charleston resident, says she used to be a foster parent decades ago and knows how overcrowded the foster care system is, "I was a foster parent a long time ago and even then it was an overcrowded system, and today even much more so."

Fitzgerald says she's hoping easier access to birth control will lead to less abortions in the state.

"I hate to see so many children being born into homes where there is a single mother or a single father, or they are being aborted," Fitzgerald said.

Even though the bill has now gone into effect, women may have to wait a few months before they can actually walk into a pharmacy and get birth control.

State health officials and the State Board of Pharmacy has to create protocol guidelines, which could take as long as six months. After that, pharmacists across the state will be trained.

We reached out to the Department of Health and Human Resources for more information on protocol, and we received this response:

"DHHR's Family Planning Program is working with a team of collaborative partners to develop protocols, draft standing orders, and gather resources to move the process forward so that pharmacists will be able to dispense hormonal contraceptives as outlined in HB 2583."

When the protocol is in place, women must be 18 years and older to gain access.