Each year in the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. That number includes people who use birth control but don't use it properly, and birth control methods that fail, as well as women who use no birth control but did not desire to become pregnant.
Unplanned pregnancies have a significant impact on the men and women involved, their families, their careers, and the financial state of the U.S. as a whole. More than half of these unplanned pregnancies continue, with the mother deciding to give birth to and raise a child that may have come at a time when it was not intended, which can have far-reaching consequences for everyone involved.
While birth control pills are not without risk, they are a very good prevention method when used properly. That includes taking them every day and using back-up birth control like condoms when a woman misses a pill or is on antibiotics. When used in this manner, the effectiveness of this birth control is 99 percent -- meaning one out of 100 women will get pregnant despite the fact that she took the pills correctly. This is one of the most effective birth control methods, ranking with IUDs and tubal ligations.
So why aren't birth control pills available over the counter? It could be simply a matter of politics. It's a discussion that has come up many times, and Planned Parenthood firmly backs the idea of having OTC birth control pills available for women.
Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards said that she endorses OTC birth control without a prescription.
"We strongly support making birth control available over the counter, as part of our nearly 100-year history of expanding access to birth control. Every woman in America should have access to the birth control method that's best for her, without barriers based on cost, availability, stigma, or any other hurdle."
One problem is a study that shows that birth control use rates sharply decline when the method costs over twenty dollars a month, and many health insurance companies do not cover any medication that is over the counter. Without insurance, birth control pills can cost in excess of $150, making them unreasonably expensive for many segments of the population.
As it currently stands, women must seek birth control from a health care provider and be given a prescription. This is a barrier for many women due to embarrassment, lack of transportation, fear of doctors, and physician visit costs. However, a physician is able to determine if someone is likely not a good candidate for birth control pills, such as smokers over the age of 35, who are at risk of developing dangerous blood clots from the hormones in the pills.
However, it is likely that OTC birth control pills are no riskier for women as a whole than, say, an unplanned pregnancy. While the FDA has the final say on what medications are available over the counter, lawmakers have great power in helping to move the process along. Many Democrats and Republicans are in favor of OTC birth control pills, so this may be something that is available relatively soon.
Readers, what are your thoughts on over the counter birth control pills?