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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday signed a law allowing pharmacists to assess and prescribe hormonal birth control to patients, a move Pritzker and champions of the bill called a “common sense approach” to helping women get contraceptives from trusted sources.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy, Pritzker said women in the state have to “navigate a maze of requirements” to get their birth control prescriptions along with juggling a job, getting to and from their place of work and, in many cases, children and child care.

“I don’t have to have been through all of those challenges myself to know that there’s got to be a better way. And as of Jan. 1, there will be,” Pritzker said. “When I signed the Reproductive Health Act into law, I said that in Illinois we guarantee a fundamental right is a woman’s right to choose. Today, we take yet another step to fulfill on that promise.”

The new law, which takes effect in January, aims to expand access to oral contraceptives by allowing trained pharmacists to assess patients and then prescribe 12 months of hormonal contraceptives over the counter. One piece of the legislation, concerning insurance coverage, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, a lead sponsor of the legislation in the House, said the legislation is a “ common sense approach to increase the number of trusted health care partners women can turn to for accurate information about what contraceptive method works best for them and their lifestyle.”

“It increases access to convenient locations all around the state, reducing unnecessary barriers to timely and consistent use of these products, which women rely on to self determine when is the right time for them to become pregnant,” Mussman said. “We want our moms and babies to get off to the best possible start.”

Illinois has a “concerningly high rate of maternal and infant mortality,” Mussman said. The law signed Thursday, House Bill 135, could help curb that rate since planned pregnancies have healthier outcomes, the Schaumburg Democrat said.

Dr. Michelle Brown, speaking for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said studies show that easing access to contraceptives helps women control their reproductive future.

“These studies reinforce what we know to be true — that women know their own health, and we can arm them with the correct decision tools to enable them to make decisions that will keep them healthy and safe,” Brown said.

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