Opinion Brief

Should the pill be available over the counter?

The birth control pill has proven more reliable than non-prescription alternatives — so why, ask contraception advocates, is it still harder to get?

Fifty years after the FDA approved the birth control pill, some contraception advocates say it's time to start selling it over the counter, arguing that it's proven more reliable than non-prescription alternatives such as condoms, spermicide, and the sponge. Moreover, says Kelly Blanchard, president of the nonprofit research group Ibis Reproductive Health, in The New York Times, the pill meets FDA requirements for over-the-counter drugs — it's safe, patients know when they need it, and the instructions are simple to follow. Should it be easier for women to get the pill? (Watch a CNN discussion about getting birth control without a prescription)

Why not? This is an idea whose time has come, says Irin Carmon at Jezebel. Even if you already have a prescription, getting it filled is an unnecessary "pain," and a 2004 survey found that 41 percent of women not using contraception would use the pill, patch, or vaginal ring if it were available over the counter. This could prevent unwanted pregnancies. "If there are indeed compelling reasons for a doctor's involvement, surely some compromise can be worked out...."
"What if the pill were over the counter?"

The pill is already a disaster for society: Birth control pills aren't the key to stopping unwanted pregnancy, says Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, in ChristianNewsWire. "Contraception has radically altered sexual behavior in our culture and ultimately leads to more abortion, not less." The pill only encourages risky sexual behavior, and fuels a culture that "opposes life" by treating babies as "mistakes."
"On pill anniversary, Pro-Life Action League encourages confident opposition to contraception"

Women don't have to wait for an over-the-counter pill: Selling the pill without a prescription seems like a no-brainer, says Ryan Brown in Salon, but the moral debate and regulatory hurdles will keep it from happening soon. Besides, "selling the pill over the counter would probably drive up the price," making it even harder for poor women to afford it. But don't despair, the "wunderkind of the birth control world" is already available — the IUD, which is effective, safe, and requires just one doctor visit.
"The pill without a prescription?"

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