With the Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision, unplanned pregnancies are top-of-mind for many Americans. So, whatever one believes about abortion, the timing of a new debate on birth control policy within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) couldn’t be more important.
The FDA just received a request from a contraceptive company seeking authorization to sell its birth control pills over-the-counter—without a prescription, as is required nationwide under current laws. This has prompted renewed calls for the FDA to approve this change. And, according to the New York Times, it’s seriously considering it this time.
The FDA received its first application for the sale of a nonprescription birth control pill. The Paris-based company that asked for the over-the-counter authorization said the timing, weeks after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, was a coincidence. https://t.co/bHvsZra2zL— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 11, 2022
Why? Well, the downsides of government mandates requiring a prescription are significant.
For one thing, it makes birth control harder to access for people without health insurance or the time/resources to obtain professional medical care. It also adds significantly to the cost of birth control by introducing middlemen and additional steps.
The current restrictive regime is defended in the name of safety. After all, hormonal birth control pills can have serious side effects and some women shouldn’t take them if they have certain medical factors that conflict with the medication.
Still, while the medication is indeed serious, it should still be made available over the counter. Right now, the government is needlessly standing in the way between the medical community and countless women who could benefit from care but can’t necessarily obtain a prescription.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The American Medical Association (AMA) has firmly endorsed making birth control available over-the-counter and called on the FDA to approve the change.
“Providing patients with [over-the-counter] access to the birth control pill is an easy call from a public health perspective,” AMA Board Member David H. Aizuss, M.D. said. “Access is one of the most cited reasons why patients do not use oral contraceptives, use them inconsistently, or discontinue use. Expanding [over-the-counter] access would make it easier for patients to properly use oral contraceptives, leading to fewer unplanned pregnancies.”
Studies have shown that, in absence of a required doctor consultation, women are able to self-screen and determine if they meet any of the conditions where one shouldn’t take hormonal birth control. (You know, like people do all the time with various medications). They can also always consult the pharmacists, which doesn’t typically require insurance or even an appointment.
Other expert groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also support making the medication available without a prescription.
It would hardly be an unprecedented move.
Dozens of other countries don’t require a prescription for birth control, including Mexico, Portugal, India, Greece, and Brazil. It’s mostly western Europe, the US, Canada, and other advanced nations—with big, bloated bureaucratic governments—that have barriers in place. But in the countries where it is available, it seems to work out just fine.
More fundamentally, it’s a matter of who gets to decide. Can women weigh the risks and benefits of a medication and decide for themselves? Or should that decision be made for them by supposedly benevolent bureaucrats and the nanny state?
For those who believe in individual liberty, the answer is clear.
"Freedom over one’s physical person is the most basic freedom of all, and people in a free society should be sovereign over their own bodies,” former Congressman Ron Paul, himself a medical doctor, once said. “When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies."
The FDA shouldn’t own women’s bodies. They should.
As one long-time advocate of making birth control available over-the-counter, (my friend) the Washington Examiner writer Tiana Lowe, put it, “[The FDA] could do something that not only is broadly supported by people of all political stripes but also has a marked ability to prevent unplanned pregnancies from occurring in the first place.”
All it has to do is get out of the way.