Earlier this year, Senate Republicans put forth the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act. As the bill undergoes review, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, one of few vocal Democrats, calls it to the public’s attention via a Tweet that birth control pills should be over-the-counter (OTC). The Democratic party has shown resistance supporting the bill for political reasons tied to Planned Parenthood.

The bill will allow women greater access to safe and effective oral contraceptives or birth control pills (BCPs) without the need for a prescription from a licensed doctor and allow women to use their tax-free health savings accounts to pay for it. This bill would put pressure on the FDA to implement a priority review process of contraceptive/BCP makers or pharma companies requesting the ‘over-the-counter’ classification, eventually bringing BCPs to general market faster.

Which states allow for women to obtain BCPs fast? Currently, California and Oregon made the first step, the #freethepill movement began years ago, allowing women to get a prescription from ‘pharmacists‘ vs. licensed doctors.

Here is why granting access to BCPs without a doctor’s prescription for all women is critical, in particular for uninsured and low-income women of color, Latinas and Native Americans –

    • Access to healthcare or zero healthcare benefits for low-income and uninsured is problematic including obtaining a doctor’s prescription
    • Affordability. With the cost of oral contraceptives lowering, uninsured and lower-income women will be able to afford them more
    • For women with flexible or health spending accounts (HSAs) the bill introduces the leverage of HSAs in coverage of oral contraceptive costs and reimbursement. Currently, the does not allow any funds to go towards purchasing or reimbursement of BCPs.
    • Accessible contraception or birth control means ‘options’ reinforcing reproductive and family planning, lower unsafe/safe abortions performed due to unplanned pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Image: Free The Pill org. The U.S. vs. other countries

On a global level, birth control pills are readily available over-the-counter in many countries. Of course, many of the countries could have their social economics of poverty be a major factor for easy access of BCPs. The only available ’emergency contraceptive’ available in the United States is the ‘morning after pill’ or Plan B.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is vocal about BCPs being accessible over-the-counter (OTC), she understands the barriers and access issues for women, especially women of color/Latinx – could she convince her Democratic colleagues to join in advocacy and support? Only time will tell.

Would you like to see BCPs available to you OTC? And why?


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