OB/GYNs call for the pill to be available over-the-counter

This could be a game-changer, right? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that oral contraceptives should be available without a prescription.

Cost, access, and convenience issues are common reasons why women do not use contraception or use it inconsistently. There are no OCs currently approved for OTC access, but The College believes OTC availability will improve women’s access to and usage of contraception. The benefits of making OCs easily accessible OTC outweigh the risks, says The College.

It’s pretty ridiculous that this hasn’t already happened. Oh wait, I’m sorry–I forgot for a second that a vocal minority lives in an alternate universe where contraception doesn’t prevent unintended pregnancies and is, in fact, murder, or a gate-way drug to abortion, or turning men gay, or something. Really, though–this should be a no-brainer. The pill is safer than plenty of other drugs, like aspirin, that are sold over-the-counter despite a small risk of side effects. And if you’re 17 or older, you can already get emergency contraception–which is just a higher dose of regular birth control–without a prescription.

women fending off stork

Sometimes it really is a hassle to avoid pregnancy.

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that if I’d been able to get the pill over-the-counter, I probably would never have gotten an abortion. When I got accidentally pregnant, I wasn’t on the pill anymore in part because I’d recently moved and the hassle of getting my prescription transferred just didn’t seem worth it. And if that discouraged me–a very well-informed, privileged lady–imagine how a poor mother working two jobs might feel about making an appointment to see a doctor, taking time off work to go in, and getting the prescription filled. Inconvenience is a real barrier.

But the other reason I–like many of you–stopped taking the pill was the cost. And that’s an issue ACOG warns will need to be addressed if birth control goes OTC. Without a prescription, it wouldn’t be covered under Obamacare’s no-copay contraception mandate and it’s unclear how much it would be.

Nothing’s changing overnight, but here’s hoping someday soon birth control pills are as cheap and accessible as candy!

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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