In recent years, states controlled by Republicans and the White House have endorsed restrictions on reproductive healthcare services such as easy access to abortions and certain contraceptive methods. One common type of birth control, however, remains largely accessible and covered by most insurance plans: the pill. This hormone-based oral contraceptive is relatively cheap, even without insurance, making it ideal for just about everyone.
However, it does require a prescription. Though it's becoming easier and easier to acquire one since some companies now prescribe online, it seems to make more sense to bypass the middleman and just offer pills over-the-counter.
Here are eight reasons that obtaining birth control pills should require no more effort than driving to your local pharmacy each month.
1. Birth control pills are relatively cheap.
An over-the-counter status may keep the pill from being covered by insurance companies, but the cost of pills even without insurance is still between $5 and $50 per month (and it's a possibility that costs would go down if the pill was offered over-the-counter due to competition). This cost may be more than women covered by insurance are paying now, but wider access to the pill eliminates the need for contraceptive-related doctor's visits, which can cost between $150 and $200 for the uninsured.
2. Wider access to birth control could help lower abortion rates.
The reasoning behind this one is simple. Birth control decreases the number of unintended pregnancies, which lessens the need for abortions as a result. Having consistent access to birth control is far more cost-effective than paying out-of-pocket to terminate an accidental pregnancy. Further, those who are personally opposed to having an abortion will have easier access to a birth control method that prevents the need for one.
3. Birth control is not habit-forming.
Though some over-the-counter drugs can be easily abused, like cold medicines and pain relievers, the birth control pill is not addictive. Some people claim that they experience withdrawal symptoms while not on the pill, but these are often pre-existing symptoms that were suppressed by the pill and reappear when use of the pill is discontinued.
4. It’s almost impossible to overdose.
Symptoms of a birth control overdose are unlikely to be life-threatening or have serious lasting symptoms, so wider access is very unlikely to lead to deaths. Birth control pills generally come in blister packs, too, which have been proven to lower the rate of accidental overdoses by children.
5. Adolescents would be able to take control of their own reproductive health without fear of embarrassment or backlash.
Teenagers, who are often still on their parents' insurance plans, may hesitate to obtain a prescription for the birth control pill out of embarrassment or fear of backlash from their parents. Though discussions about sexual health should always be encouraged, teenagers should be granted the ability to take control over their own reproductive health without disclosing their personal reasons to a doctor or parent.
6. Using two or more types of birth control simultaneously vastly reduces risk of pregnancy.
Contraceptives like condoms and spermicides are already available without a prescription, and adding the birth control pill to this list could help to severely reduce the chance of unwanted pregnancy. Experts recommend combining hormonal methods (the pill) with barrier methods (condoms or spermicides) to maximize the efficiency of birth control — this would be far easier to do if both were available in the same place.
7. The pill has a number of other health benefits.
According to Planned Parenthood, the pill can also be used to treat acne, bone thinning, cysts, endometrial and ovarian cancers, infections, irregular periods, and anemia. Because of this, the pill is a valid option even for those who are not concerned with pregnancy prevention.
8. Everyone has a right to control their own reproductive health without anyone else’s knowledge or approval.
The right to bodily autonomy is often unstable, as access to abortion and contraceptives are hot topics in politics right now. Widening the accessibility of the birth control pill will allow a larger pool of people with female reproductive systems to take control of their own health without fearing the influence of politicians.
Privacy rights are a cornerstone of American democracy, and making the pill accessible to all without the influence of doctors or politicians is a way to ensure that Americans have the privacy to which they are entitled when making this personal medical decision.
For such a versatile and widely-used drug, over-the-counter access seems beyond reasonable.