Celebrating World Contraception Day
September 26—On World Contraception Day, we celebrate that women in over 100 countries can access birth control pills without a prescription—and American women are closer to this goal than ever before.
A revolution in how contraception is delivered is underway. From apps that connect women with virtual doctors, to pharmacist prescribing programs, to laws that require insurers to give women a full year’s supply at once, women’s demand for easier access and innovation from developers and public health professionals alike are helping us get closer to a world where the tools to prevent pregnancy when you want to are at your fingertips. And a movement is underway to free the pill in the United States.
Birth control pills are popular and safe, but the need for a prescription can make it difficult for many women to use and stay on the Pill. Running out of pills on the weekend, forgetting to bring them on vacation or a work trip, or not being able to afford or get to the doctor for an appointment are all problems that could be eliminated if people could get birth control pills right off the shelf. An OTC birth control pill would give women more control over their lives.
Ibis Reproductive Health leads a coalition of women’s health advocates, researchers, and health care providers that aims to expand contraceptive access for all by moving a birth control pill over the counter. Women want it, doctors and leading women’s health groups are on board and now we are partnering with HRA Pharma to support the research needed for HRA Pharma’s submission of an application to the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, for an OTC progestin-only pill. This means that an OTC birth control pill is literally on the horizon.
Free the Pill is our campaign to educate and generate excitement more generally for a birth control pill you can get without a doctor’s prescription. But it is not enough that the FDA simply approve a product for OTC sale. Free the Pill calls for an over-the-counter pill that is affordable, covered by insurance, and available to people of all ages.
This is because we don’t want merely to create more access for people who already have it. As you will hear from our other presenters today, contraception is too hard to get for too many people: for low-income people, for teens, for immigrants, for the uninsured, for women of color who disproportionately experience health disparities. It is critical that any OTC pill be covered by insurance; cost should not be a barrier, nor should OTC birth control only be a luxury for those who can afford it.
We have made progress on this front. Three states now have laws requiring insurers to cover OTC contraception like emergency contraception without a prescription and some insurance companies have begun to do this on their own. But it is critical that we continue to get more states and more insurers to cover OTC contraception so that when the FDA approves an OTC progestin-only pill, all women will benefit.