Sen. Heather Somers, Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, and Rep. Sarah Keitt during meeting of the Public Health Committee Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Lawmakers on the Public Health Committee advanced a bill on Monday that would permit pharmacists who undergo special training to prescribe hormonal birth control to patients at least 16 years old. 

The committee approved the proposal on a bipartisan 33-4 vote during a midday meeting in the Legislative Office Building. 

a green button that says support and red button that says oppose

The bill, which will now head to the Senate for consideration, is one of several similar proposals raised this year by Democrats and Republicans in an effort to increase the availability of contraception.

“The side effect of … not being able to have birth control is an unwanted pregnancy,” Sen. Martha Marx, D-New London, said. “There’s many women in this room and having an unwanted pregnancy is something that I don’t wish on any woman. So anything we can do to make birth control more accessible, I agree with.”

Although most of the public health panel ultimately voted for the bill, several lawmakers voiced reservations about potential complications related to patients who receive the medication without first consulting with a doctor.

“There needs to be some original conversation with a physician before you go full-bore on birth control for a variety of different reasons,” Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington, said. “I think that’s vitally important given any type of underlying condition and side effects and medical reactions to prescriptions.” 

Sen. Saud Anwar, a doctor and Democrat from South Windsor, agreed. 

“It’s important to note that if somebody is at a high risk for developing clots and they have family history of clots or they have had clots in the past, they may have increased risk,” Anwar said. “That risk is better addressed by a clinician and pharmacists are not clinicians and pharmacy techs are certainly not clinicians.” 

The bill requires that a pharmacist complete a training program that would help them to identify medical situations when the medication may be harmful to a patient as well as when to refer a patient to a doctor. 

During the meeting, Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said that similar laws had been adopted in 22 other states including Oregon, where she said a recent study suggested that after screening pharmacists declined to dispense hormonal contraception around 7% of the time.

“I am confident that our pharmacists are well-trained, they are medication experts and professionals and I have full confidence that they are able to dispense this medication that’s been on the market for 61 years safely and effectively,” Somers said.