US OB/GYN group backs over-the-counter birth control pills

In a rather controversial move, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is endorsing the over-the-counter sale of oral contraceptives:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a call Tuesday for birth control pills to be sold over the counter. Currently oral contraceptives are available only with a doctor’s prescription.

In a policy statement, the organization argues that making birth control pills easier to get will translate into fewer unwanted pregnancies. These unplanned pregnancies remain a major problem in the United States, they write, accounting for approximately 50% of all pregnancies. And such pregnancies, they argue, do not just interrupt lives — they also cost a fortune, with a price tag of approximately $11.1 billion per year, according to an analysis published in the academic journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

One argument commonly used to argue against making hormonal contraceptives like the pill available over the counter is that they can harm patients if they are not properly screened for contraindications. But the obstetricians and gynecologists point to several studies showing that individuals can successfully screen for such potential problems — and that pharmacists, rather than physicians, can also successfully fill that role.

According to ACOG, physician consultations and prescriptions are unnecessary barriers to women who want access to birth control pills. Women are certainly more than capable of reading warning labels on medications and assessing basic risks, but is it wise to make pills that have potentially profound hormonal effects readily available? Many women believe it is and are rejoicing at the prospect of purchasing their Seasonique as easily as Snickers bars:

Not so fast. Many other women believe ACOG’s position is highly irresponsible:

It is worth noting that a conservative/libertarian case can be made for giving adult women over-the-counter access to the pill:

Birth-control pills can have side effects, of course, but so can such over-the-counter drugs as antihistamines, ibuprofen or the Aleve that once turned me into a scary, hive-covered monster. That’s why even the most common over-the-counter drugs, including aspirin, carry warning labels. Most women aren’t at risk from oral contraceptives, however, just as most patients aren’t at risk from aspirin or Benadryl, and studies suggest that a patient checklist can catch most potential problems.

To further increase safety, over-the-counter sales could start with a progestin-only formulation, sometimes called the “minipill,” rather than the more-common combinations of progestin and estrogen. (Although we casually refer to “The Pill,” oral contraceptives actually come in about 100 formulations.)

Progestin-only pills, or POPs, have fewer contraindications. Unlike combination pills, they’re OK for women with hypertension, for instance, or smokers over the age of 35. The main dangers are fairly rare conditions such as breast cancer or current liver disease. “Not only are POP contraindications rare, but women appear to be able to accurately identify them using a simple checklist without the aid of a clinician,” declares an article forthcoming in the journal Contraception.

Women should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their input into their personal health care, and, unlike the Sandra Flukes on the Left, conservatives believe that women are capable of using their lady smarts when it comes to sexual health decisions.

This woman raises a great point:

if birth control pills become available over the counter, they’ll no longer be free! ACOG believes that, should the pill be sold over the counter, a provision covering the sale should be added to Obamacare. For a group that claims to believe women are smart and independent enough to make health decisions, they sure do want Julia to stay under Big Government’s thumb.

  • TheAnthillGoddess

    Why am I just learning that POP’s are safe for women with hypertension? You mean we’ve been using condoms for the past 12 years when I actually *could* have been on a form of the pill that was safe? Grrrrrrrrrrr
    As for OTC, as long as they are OTC of a pharmacy, with a pharmacist doing the “teaching” on them (and verifying age), I’m not sure I’m too upset about it…but won’t it drive DOWN the cancer screenings because women will no longer *have* to go to the dr and get the screenings to get their pills???

    • TugboatPhil

      When the health care bill was being first brought up, some federal advisory group was saying that pap smears and mammograms were being conducted too frequently and recommended fewer of each. This will be the feds new solution to cutting costs under Obamacare. The more patients they can kill off, the less they need to spend on treatment.

      I just hope I get some choice for the death camp I get sent to in a few years. I’d like a cooler climate so I can freeze to death in a hallway instead of hanging on in the sweltering heat and humidity.

  • yahneverknow

    This is a changing of the guard.
    The idiocy has finally taken over.
    These are the doctors that got into it for the $$, not to help people.

  • yahneverknow

    This is a changing of the guard.
    The idiocy has finally taken over.
    These are the doctors that got into it for the $$, not to help people.

  • Jefferson Tea Party

    Enjoy those blood clots and strokes, ladies!

  • NCGirl

    I’m really kind of on the fence about this one… if they were to make an age limit (say 18) I think I might be okay with it as long as the pharmacist were mandated to go over side effects (which is basically all my MD did anyway whenever I’ve been on the pill.) Plus then taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill, unless they actually added a BC clause to the ACA which would be completely stupid because if you’re going to add that OTC medicine you should then have to add any OTC medicine. However it does worry me that there would be more complications for those that shouldn’t be taking the pill for any pre-existing conditions that their MD would normally explain to them…hmmmm

    • kate_middleton

      Yeah. I think the point about more STDs that one tweeter raised is a good one. Teens would buy birth control and probably forego condoms – not a good idea.
      I do think it’s something that a doctor should be involved in because there are potential side effects. In my personal experience, I had to try several different pills to find the one that worked best for me. I see it being OTC as a clusterf–k because of that.

      • Purple State

        Teens thinking BC pills protect them from STDs is an argument for more effective sex education, not an argument against OTC access.

        • kate_middleton

          I don’t disagree with that. And I’m not saying teens currently don’t know how STDs come about – I think most do. But teens think they’re invincible, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that letting them get OTC birth control would result in less safe sex – and thus more STDs.
          My main issue would be that while many people think birth control is totally safe, there are some major side effects associated with it. Thankfully they’re rare, but it’s not the same as an aspirin or cold medicine. And I say this as someone who went on birth control at 16 for medical issues – it took years to find the right dose/type for me, and I think you should have a doctor’s assistance with that.

          • Purple State

            I agree with you — 16 year olds should probably not have OTC access.

          • TugboatPhil

            Why not, if 14 year olds can have an abortion without their parents knowing it? Why are underage females suddenly not able to make a decision, as in having an abortion?

          • Purple State

            That’s not the case for every state — it depends on state law. Federalism! Even so, parental permission is absolutely a separate issue from doctor prescription. Likewise, birth control medication is not equivalent to an abortion.

        • Jillane Kent

          Teens know that birth control does not prevent STD. Even if no sex education were offered and no parental discussions were held, this is plainly stated within the packaging. I would worry that more kids would get STD’s because the perceptive need for a condom would be reduced. Without regular visits to a gynecologist, how does one know?

          • Purple State

            This is what I was talking about when I said that sex ed needs to be more effective:

            “I would worry that more kids would get STD’s because the perceptive need for a condom would be reduced.”

            It’s still no reason to keep BC access prescription-only.

      • Tabitha Taylor

        I think that’s why they said “if they were to make an age limit (say 18)”… Which I would assume they’d have to for hormones. You bring up a good point about all the different doses of hormone that are offered. I went through the same thing many moons ago when I had to take them myself, but assume they’d be offering the ones that are the lowest dose for OTC. Just assuming here of course, but I imagine there’d be a prescription strength for those that have a higher dose of hormone or a mixture of different hormones like the ‘vogue’ brands we see advertised on TV today. That’s how it’s been done in Mexico for some time.


    Fine with me as long as they don’t add that “little provision” to StupidCare.

  • Tabitha Taylor

    I kinda wish they would do this & make the morning after ones OTC too, so ObamaCare no longer interferes with our personal religious freedoms. Also less Drs held liable when women have side effects. Let it be on them 100%.

  • nc

    What could go wrong?/sarc

  • Joy Daniels Brower

    Ah, yet another plus for being a “senior cit!” Damn, it feels good not to have ANY of that crap to worry about anymore! No longer of child-bearing age – and no uterus for the purpose! But, hey, with older guys now on Viagra, they’d better use a condom – or fegeddaboutit!

  • afvet4america

    LMHO, Oblamer knew his plan wasn’t going to give free birth control after all, they’ll just make it OTC. LOL Lib’s fooled again, and guess what now it will be even more dangerous for your teenagers to take it!

  • dkhilly

    I just hope they include warnings and intstructions about emotional side effects. I got crazy depression from them.