The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended that birth control should be available over the counter. This professional organization, which is comprised of doctors specializing in reproductive health, argues that this policy change would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Approximately half of all births in the United States are unintended, as it has been for the last 20 years, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Such a move would, as I see it, benefit lots of people. First, it would benefit teenage girls who want to be on birth control but have trouble getting access to it without parental approval and young women in their 20s who experience gaps in birth control because of its unaffordability. (This puts them at particular risk of unintended pregnancy.) And it would benefit women of all other ages who are subject to human error on their gynecologist’s end.
It would also benefit taxpayers who foot the $11-12 million bill racked up by all of those unintentional births.
Providing low- or no-cost birth control has been proven to significantly reduce the number of births. As was shown in a recent study published by the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, the birth rate among 9,000 girls and women who were given free access to birth control was found to be 6.3 per 1,000 rather than the national rate of 34.1 per 1,000.
As a teen, I wanted birth control to control my periods, which came at an unbearable two weeks apart. For whatever reason, my mother didn’t seem to want me on the pill, even though she’d always said that if I wanted to have sex I should come to her. And this wasn’t even so I could have an awkward, sweaty three minutes in “heaven.” I just wanted four weeks without seeing red.
So a friend and I went to the clinic at nearby Einstein Hospital after school, where they told us we’d have to come back at 8 a.m. on a Friday to get in the queue for a walk-in appointment. There was no way I could do that. The school had an automated call system to notify your parents if you were late or absent. I would have been found out!
And so I didn’t get on the pill until I was in college. Thank goodness I hadn’t had sex before that. But for those who are also afraid of their parents finding out their actually having sex, making birth control available over the counter is a really smart move.
Even after you’re out of your parents’ house, it can be hard to afford birth control, which can run as much as $60 for a month’s supply. And despite every uninformed man’s humble opinion that a $5 version of the pill works the same as a $60 version, it’s not that simple. For whatever complicated chemical reason, a woman can react poorly to different brands.
This can be a problem when there’s a mix-up at her gynecologist’s office and the wrong pill is ordered and the pharmacist can’t reach anyone to fix the problem because it’s a Saturday. Making the pill available over the counter would eliminate all of this and would allow our menfolk to rest easy that their wives won’t turn into a raging, horny mess with whom a conversation requires something much “like navigating through a minefield” and whose aches can be soothed “with a couple pelvic shakes.”
And let’s consider how making birth control easily accessible, which reduces the birth rate, would allow more American women to find financially stable jobs before they find themselves with child.
As the ACOG reports, “Access and cost issues are common reasons why women either do not use contraception use or have gaps in use.” And of course, making birth control accessible over the counter will not eliminate human error on the part of the sexually active person – indeed, we’ve all heard that abstinence is the only surefire birth control – but it is reprehensible not to make birth control as easy to obtain as possible. It’s really just plain good sense.
– Rosella Eleanor LaFevre