The Next Step for the Birth Control Pill: Over-the-Counter?

Why not? That’s the question that Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, asks in a recent New York Times op-ed. She argues that there’s no real reason against making the birth control pill available over the counter, and there would be great benefits to doing so.

First, the birth control pill meets the F.D.A requirements to be sold over the counter:

  • Instructions are easy-to-follow
  • Determining whether to use the drug does not require a doctor’s screening (like other contraceptives, for example, condoms)
  • It is non-addictive
  • An overdose is not fatal

Second, the birth control pill would be much more effective if made available over the counter. The accessibility of this particular contraceptive is impeded by its “prescription-only” status. Uninsured women who find it financially prohibitive to see a doctor are barred from one of the most effective and affordable contraceptives available. When traveling or on vacation, women can find themselves unable to replenish their supply of birth control pills. Blanchard highlights the statistics: America has the “highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world.” Making effective contraceptives available over-the-counter would be a huge step in bringing that teenage pregnancy rate down.

Katherine Mangu-Ward of the Reason blog writes:

Women aren’t stupid, but the Food and Drug Administration treats them like they are. The contraceptive pill has been on the market for 50 years, but women still have to go begging every year to their doctors and every month to the pharmacist behind the high counter.

It has been fifty years since the F.D.A. approved the birth control pill, and as we wrote a month ago, the pill has given many women greater control of their reproductive capabilities, which has meant greater control of their lives and destinies. Allowing the pill to be sold over the counter will give more women to access its enormous benefits, and we just don’t see a reason why this should be delayed any longer. Thus, in the words of Kelly Blanchard, let’s “let the pill go free.”


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