Contraceptives such as condoms, spermicides, and the “morning after pill” are all readily available over the counter at any pharmacy. Many question if birth control pills should be one of them. Aside from preventing pregnancy, many women take birth control for other health reasons, such as balancing hormones and regulating menstrual cycles. Should birth control be easily accessible? Or is selling birth control over the counter dangerous and irresponsible?
Yes, OTC birth control should be for sale
As the number of women taking birth control increases, questions are raised as to why it is not available over the counter. Many countries offer birth control over the counter, while others do not, including the United States. Making birth control available over the counter comes with many benefits, such as convenience, a reduced number of unwanted pregnancies, long term health benefits, and access for low-income populations.
Birth control reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies
A majority of unwanted pregnancies are caused by the absence or misuse of birth control. Over the past few years, the rate of teen pregnancies has lowered due to the increased use of contraceptives, including the pill. By making birth control pills available over the counter, as well as other birth control methods, the number of unwanted pregnancies would decrease.
Aside from reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancies, birth control has a number of health benefits. Women do not always seek out birth control as a contraceptive. Birth control is also used to regulate menstrual cycles, relieve symptoms of PMS, and help reduce the risks of uterine cancer and ovarian cysts.
Low-income populations need access to affordable birth control
In order to obtain a prescription for birth control, women must consult a doctor first. Many women are without health insurance, and visiting a doctor is not always cheap or convenient. By making birth control accessible over the counter, the number of unwanted pregnancies would decrease in lower-income populations, as well as other health issues.
While the idea of selling birth control over the counter may sound like a good idea, there are many potential health risks. Making birth control available over the counter may actually lead to more unwanted pregnancies, as well as other health risks. No drug is risk free, and women should consult a medical professional before taking any form of birth control.
Birth control increases health risks
Though birth control protects women from unwanted pregnancies, it is not effective against sexually transmitted diseases. Making birth control accessible over the counter would decrease the use of condoms, and increase the spread of STDs. Women would also be less likely to visit their OB/GYN for yearly annual check-ups.
Birth control raises the number of unwanted and teen pregnancies
Health professionals are concerned that instead of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, making birth control available over the counter would actually increase the number, especially in teen populations. Birth control is not always effective, and making it available over the counter would be irresponsible.
When Plan B emergency contraceptive was made available over the counter, the generic brand name cost went from around $5 to roughly $40. By making birth control available over the counter, it would no longer be covered by health insurance. Women would have to pay out of pocket for their birth control, essentially making it more expensive.