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Over-The-Counter Birth Control? Bring It On

June 13, 2019 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

Last week Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat,
tweeted that oral contraceptives should be made
available over-the-counter. A few days later, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas
Republican, tweeted he agrees and offered to team up with Ocasio-Cortez on legislation to
make it happen. The American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists has called for making birth control pills available
without a prescription for years; The American Academy of Family
Physicians agrees.

Now that two prominent legislators of such divergent political
persuasions have expressed their concurrence with the medical
experts, perhaps the time is nearing when the U.S. will join
102 other countries throughout the world and
allow women to obtain birth control pills without a
prescription.

Defenders of the status quo fear women may forgo necessary
preventive care visits if birth control pills are available over
the counter. But the ACOG states that “cervical cancer
screening or sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening is not
required for initiating OC [oral contraceptive] use and should not
be used as barriers to access.” In fact, there is currently a
debate among gynecologists regarding the need
and benefits of annual pap exams.

The confluence of views
among women of child-bearing age, medical experts, and now
legislators from both ends of the political spectrum provides a
great opportunity to liberate women from the paternalistic policy
that makes them pay a toll – a doctor’s office visit – to obtain
contraception.

Others paternalistically worry that women may misuse oral
contraceptives if they are able to obtain them without a permission
slip (prescription) from another equally autonomous adult. Yet
experience shows that when adults self-medicate, they
conscientiously perform due diligence, whereas they otherwise defer
to the judgment of authority figures if medications are prescribed.
For example, a 2006 report from Seattle found women’s
self-evaluation regarding whether or not they should take the pill
matched those of doctors about 90% of the time — and the 10%
of the time they didn’t match was mostly because the women were
more cautious.

Ten states have tried to work around the
FDA’s prescription classification by allowing pharmaciststo prescribe birth control
pills. While that’s an improvement over the status quo, it
still negatively affects women’s comfort and
privacy. As shown in a 2015 report in the journal “Sexual and
Reproductive Healthcare,” many women who seek emergency
contraception (the so-called morning after pill, which has been
available over-the-counter since 2006) prefer to purchase this kind of
medication discreetly and avoid unwanted discussion or counseling,
even if offered by a …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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