The Victorian government wants to allow women to get the pill over the counter.
The Victorian government wants to allow women to get the pill over the counter.

Sick of having to go to the doctor for a pill script?

AT ALL hours of the day around Australia, millions of women participate in the daily ritual of preventing an unwanted pregnancy.

Taking the contraceptive pill is an act so common that we only need to hear a few familiar sounds - the ring of a 9am phone alarm and the gentle crackle of a plastic packet - to recognise the women who carry those pills around everyday.

The pill is still the most popular form of contraception used by Australian women.

It allows us to have sex without the fear of getting pregnant. We can control our menstrual cycles to fit our busy lives and have children only when we are ready.

But getting our hands on these brilliant little pills is time consuming and expensive.

Every few months we must find time to see a doctor and get a new prescription, something the men we have sex with never have to worry about.

Now women in Victoria could become the first in the country to have access to the pill without an ongoing prescription.

The Victorian opposition has promised to make the contraceptive pill available over the counter if it wins the November state election.

Women would still need to visit a GP once to get an initial prescription, but after that no further doctor's visits would be required. Women would be able to get more courses of the pill from their pharmacist.

"Women are completely capable of being in charge of their own contraception and this policy puts more control in their hands," said the Shadow Minister for Health, Mary Wooldridge.

"The contraceptive pill is safe and effective, and we will ensure that women who choose to use it can do so as easily as possible."

Ms Wooldridge said a committee of medical professionals, pharmacists and women's health specialists would be established to advise on the plan, including its schedule, guidelines, training and safeguards.

That could be a massive win for busy, time-poor women who are over having to find a bulk-billing doctor to dish out a script for a pill they've been taking happily for years.

But the head of the Australian Medical Association, Tony Bartone, claims the current system is "working so well" and the proposed changes raised "a number of red flags".

"Really the most significant issue is the fragmentation of care that would be involved," Dr Bartone said.

"There would be a missed opportunity for preventive health screening and checks that go along with going to a doctor for a repeat script. It could also lead to women delaying presentation to a doctor."

New Zealand successfully implemented the policy in 2017.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the Kiwis have proven it can be done.

"It reduces a barrier to contraception and Australia does have quite a high rate of unintended pregnancy," the College's spokeswoman Associate Prof Kirsten Blackshe told The Guardian. "Like anything in life, you have to weight up risks and benefits and the access this would provide would outweigh any risks. Very few women, only around 2 per cent, have a medial contraindication to taking the pill."

The most recent ABS survey of patient experiences in Australia showed that 5 per cent of women delayed seeing a GP in the previous 12 months due to cost, and 20 per cent of women waited longer than they believed was acceptable to see the GP.

Approximately half of all Australian women have experienced an unplanned pregnancy.

Ms Wooldridge says giving women easier access to the pill and cutting out the approximate $40 fee for a GP visit will help reduce that number.

"The consequences of unintended pregnancy can be serious financially and emotionally - we need to make sure that as many women as possible have access to the contraception of their choice," she said.