Increasing Access to Birth Control: OTC Oral Contraception

This week, Republican Majority for Choice was excited to sit in on conversations about efforts towards increasing access to contraception by supporting making birth control pills available over-the-counter. Joined by Dr. Dan Grossman of the Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group, Dr. Susan Wood of the George Washington University School of Public Health, Dr. Chris Zahn of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Kimberly Inez McQuire of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we learned about the barriers to making the birth control pill over-the-counter and the overwhelming benefits such an action would provide.

At this point in time, 49% of pregnancies in the U.S. are considered unintended, varying by state between 36 to 60%. In the face of this, 62% of women of reproductive age support access to over-the-counter oral contraception, with a significant number likely to use it if it’s available. Others would continue to access birth control pills through their physicians or rely on long acting reversible contraception methods (LARCs) like the implant or IUD.  When inconsistent (and thus possibly ineffective) use of oral contraceptives is 60% higher for those obtaining the pill from clinics, its evident that an over-the-counter method would greatly benefit women across the country in preventing unintended pregnancies.

An over-the-counter offering of oral contraception would help women avoid expensive options they obtain through prescriptions while also increasing convenience for those who live considerable distances away from their doctors or pharmacists. Access to OTC counter contraception would NOT replace the benefits of insurance coverage of contraception; rather, this step would increase access to some methods of contraception for some populations. However, any step toward increased access to preventive health services would overwhelmingly benefit the country as a whole, especially those who do not have access to regular providers and those who do not have insurance.  It is estimated that access to OTC oral contraception could reduce national unintended pregnancy rates between 8 and 25%. While this is not a silver bullet in the matter unintended pregnancy, it is a long-term, fiscally responsible path to reducing these rates to levels expected of developed countries.


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