INDIANAPOLIS — A new Indiana law will expand access to contraception by allowing pharmacists to start prescribing birth control pills and patches later this year.

Women would not need to see a doctor before obtaining the prescription, which is currently allowed in about half of all states in the U.S., according to the Indiana Pharmacy Association.

“There are several counties in Indiana where there isn’t a provider who can provide contraception services, and so there is a pharmacy in all of those counties,” said Veronica Vernon, the group’s immediate past president.

The law will require pharmacists to examine patients and review their medical history before providing a prescription.

Vernon, who teaches pharmacy classes at Butler University, said students are already being trained on how to prescribe contraception.

“If it’s the right drug, the right route for the right patient, learning about side effects, drug interactions,” she said. “This is exactly what pharmacists go to school for.”

Under the law, patients will be required to see a doctor within a year of their first prescription from the pharmacy.

The legislation had been introduced for several years but made it to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk this session for the first time.

“More access is typically better in my mind,” Holcomb recently told reporters.

The new law will take effect almost a year after Indiana Republicans approved a near-total ban on abortion, which remains on hold as it’s challenged in the courts.

State Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville) said she believes that law, combined with the results seen in other states, persuaded more Republicans to support the measure this year.

“Colorado saw a significant decrease in the first few years in unplanned pregnancies,” Fleming said. “They also saw significant savings for the state.”

Under Indiana’s new law, pharmacists would be limited to prescribing supplies of up to six months of birth control at a time.

State leaders first have to issue a standing order before pharmacists can start prescribing contraception. That’s expected to be finalized later this year, Vernon said.