New York Citizens, Out-of-State Patients Can Receive Birth Control Without a Prescription


The state order was signed on Tuesday and is just a part of an overall mission to strengthen and protect reproductive rights within New York for citizens and those out of state.

Woman holding birth control pills -- Image credit: methaphum |

Woman holding a blister pack of pills

Image credit: methaphum |

A state order signed on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, will allow New York citizens to receive a year’s worth of hormonal birth control from pharmacies without a prescription. The New York State Department of Health issued an order to formally authorize the initiative. The measure was passed last year by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, as a part of mission to strengthen reproductive rights within the state.

This decision comes as the first over-the-counter birth control pill, norgestrel (Opill; Perrigo Co.) was made available in US stores without a prescription earlier this month, which the FDA previously described as a “landmark decision.”1,2

Currently, more than 25 states allow pharmacists to provide contraceptive care, and according to New York law, pharmacists are able to dispense 3 different methods of hormonal birth control—birth control pills, vaginal rings, and contraceptive patches—to both residents and those from out of state, with or without prescriptions. Further, pharmacists can provide counseling and information on the medication in addition to the risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.1

State officials emphasize that this decision is to help remove barriers to contraceptive methods and protect reproductive freedoms while other states continue to restrict access. New York is just 1 state of more than 24 —including neighboring New Jersey—that authorize pharmacists to distribute birth control for patients; however, few states explicitly establish themselves as a “safe harbor” for those who need reproductive care.1

“Here in New York, you have the power to walk into a pharmacy—just like we are here today—and to make that decision that ‘I want [birth control]. I want to be able to control the process. I want to control my life,’” said Hochul.1

Prior to the overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022, Hochul had anticipated an increase of people from out of state seeking abortions and she contributed $35 million to help support health care workers. Further, New York lawmakers had also passed a bill that protected abortion providers from out-of-state litigation. This decision is significant considering that over 20 states have either strictly limited or banned abortions entirely.1

“This is about access to care, it’s about the individual autonomy, it’s about health equity,” said State Health Commissioner James McDonald. “But it’s also about protecting reproductive rights, which are all very core to the mission of the New York State Department of Health.”1

Pharmacists who want to participate must complete designated trainings that were developed by New York state’s Education Department prior to dispensing. The 12-month contraceptive supplies are up to the individual patient’s preference, and patients must complete self-screening forms that will allow pharmacists to help identify the appropriate contraceptive method for patients. In addition, pharmacists must disclose any potential risks with the patient in addition notifying primary health care practitioners within 72 hours of the time of dispensing the medication.2

The bill was previously intended to go into effect in November 2024, but the benefits can be accessed as soon as several weeks, and, according to Hochul, an anticipated 85% of New York pharmacies are expected to participate in the service. Upon signing the bill into law, she wrote, “In light of national threats to reproductive freedoms, we simply cannot wait that long.”2


1. Ashford G. Birth control to be sold over the counter in New York pharmacies. The New York Times. March 19, 2024. Accessed March 21, 2024.
2. Associated Press. Contraceptives Will Be Available Without a Prescription in New York Following a Statewide Order. US News & World Report. March 19, 2024. Accessed March 21, 2024.
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