Over-The-Counter Pill: Too Easy?

by Catie Colliton

Babble’s Strollerderby posed an interesting idea today: what if the Pill could be sold over-the-counter, no doctor’s visit or prescription necessary? On initial thought, this sounds amazing, especially for all the teens out there who would NOT end up pregnant and in poverty, or worse, in abstinence-only PSAs or poorly-acted TV shows.

According to this Newsweek article, members of the Oral Contraceptive Over-the-Counter Working Group, a women’s health clinical and research institution, are pushing the FDA for  the over-the-counter Pill because they believe “prescription-only access to birth control is patronizing to women, limits contraceptive freedom, and is ineffective against intractably high teen-pregnancy rates.” The FDA hasn’t approved this over-the-counter Pill, since it has yet to be completely developed, but apparently they’re looking into it.

Looking at this from all angles is important though, so here are some pros and cons on the issue:


– Having the Pill over-the-counter would make safe sex a lot easier to gain access to, especially for teens (who might not be able to access a doctor without a parent’s help) and low-income women.

– Instead of scheduling a doctor’s visit, birth control would be available immediately and PAP smears (cancer screening) wouldn’t have to be associated with the Pill all the time.

– That being said, there wouldn’t need to be a trade-off between doctors and patients:

Doctor: Let me do the PAP smear, and you’ll get a special prize if you sit still and relax, okay? 

Patient: Can I pick any Pill I want? 

Doctor: We’ll see about that… 

Patient: *frowny face*

– The intended make-up of the Pill is supposed to be mostly progestin, so there would be very few side effects and generally be safe for most users. Synthetic estrogen, used in most brands of the birth control pill, can often cause blood clots and heart problems, but also clear up acne and lighten periods.



– Medicare and  insurance companies might not cover the cost of an over-the-counter Pill, so if it ends up being pretty costly, the Pill might not be as available as we think.

– Women might not go to the doctor as often without the need for a prescription, and could end up skipping yearly pelvic exams.

– Instead of trying out different birth control pills and finding the right one for individual body chemistry and medical history, women on the over-the-counter Pill might encounter negative side effects that could potentially be harmful.

– Gynecologists may lose revenue, as well as a lot of manufacturers, although companies that do produce an over-the-counter Pill could benefit from the FDA approval.

– Because of the convenience, women may only use the over the counter Pill when needed, going off or on inconsistently, or possibly not reading all the safety information that a doctor would normally say in person.


In an ideal world, we would be creating more free or cheap clinics all over the country, but that could take decades for enough support to make it happen. If an over-the-counter Pill does get approval from the FDA, how would this effect relationships, or society for that matter? See any other pros and cons you’d like to add? Let us know what you think!


Photo: Newsweek

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