Oregon, Washington and California are now offering birth control pills over the counter. They’re the only two states nationwide to offer this luxury to women. This is a huge step in the right direction of preventing unwanted pregnancies and gaining a better understanding of contraceptives in general. Birth control needs to be easily accessible, and making it an over-the-counter drug was a positive choice.
Technically, categorizing birth control (or, as it’s more commonly pegged, “the pill”) as over-the-counter is incorrect in the case of California, Washington and Oregon. Women who want to obtain the pill still need to discuss it with a pharmacist before they can purchase it. That is not the case for the majority of over-the-counter medications. But it’s still simpler than the old-school way of going to the doctor, getting blood drawn and going back to the doctor to get the prescription renewed every few months or years. You can now purchase birth control by simply going to a pharmacy, discussing your risks and which pill is best for you and getting the pill. It might not be as easy as grabbing a bottle of Tylenol from Walgreens, but it’s a move in the right direction.
Currently, there are only four states that have made it legal for pharmacists to dispense birth control without a prescription. Legislators in five other states, plus Washington, D.C., have proposed to change the archaic birth control laws. My question is, why haven’t we done this already? Women are completely capable of making their own decisions on whether they want to be on birth control. I’m too nervous to even set up my own doctor’s appointment. I don’t know many teenagers who would take the initiative to call a doctor and set up an appointment to receive a prescription. Thus, we have high percentages of unplanned teenage pregnancies.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, there are facts saying why this should be legal in Nebraska and every other state. In a recent study of 2,000 women conducted by a nonprofit sexual health organization, 75 percent of the women surveyed said they’d support over-the-counter birth control. Thirty percent of the women who weren’t on birth control and don’t use condoms said they would go on the pill if it was available over-the-counter. A similar study was done with teenage girls. Out of the 348 teenagers, 73 percent said they support this change, and 61 percent who weren’t on the pill said they would use it if it were this easily accessible.
Even doctors agree birth control should be over-the-counter. In a study of 482 health care providers by the University of San Diego and the University of Southern California, seventy-six percent of doctors and 60 percent of health care providers approve the change of access to the pill. They even go as far as saying women should be able to get other contraceptives, such as a birth control patch or ring, over the counter too. In California, all forms of birth control, except IUD’s (which need to be inserted by a doctor), can be legally obtained with just the pharmacist consultation.. The health care providers’ only concern was this might prevent women from getting a general health care screening, which they often get when they’re renewing their birth control prescriptions. Along with all these aforementioned benefits, this change would help the economy. A study at the University of California-San Francisco found that roughly 11 to 21 percent of low-income women would start using the pill over-the-counter. This would reduce unwanted pregnancies by an estimated of 7 to 25 percent. These are huge numbers that can’t be ignored. The money that could be saved from changing how the pill is obtained could potentially be used to advocate even more for sexual health, contraceptives, consent, etc.
If our states could have the opportunity to strengthen their economies, give more opportunities to low income women and offer a better understanding of contraceptives, why wouldn’t they? With a change in the way birth control is obtained, from a doctor’s prescription to a pharmacist consultation and over the counter, they could do this. Nebraska needs to take the step to start this change.