May 2015

Research brief: Advocates' opinions on moving oral contraceptives over the counter

Ibis Reproductive Health. Research brief: Advocates' opinions on moving oral contraceptives over the counter. May 2015.

Women who want to use birth control should be able to freely access it, but many struggle with the time or cost associated with a visit to a health care provider to obtain a prescription for a method. Research has demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter (OTC) access to oral contraceptives (OCs), and leading medical groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support it. Reproductive health advocates will play an important role in an OTC switch for a birth control pill by ensuring women’s views—especially those who might benefit most from a switch—are heard. This study aimed to explore advocates’ views regarding OTC access to OCs.

We conducted an online survey with reproductive justice and reproductive health advocates on their opinions of current access and barriers to contraception and the potential impacts of an OTC birth control pill for low-income women, young women, and women of color.

782 respondents completed the survey. Participants discussed current barriers to contraceptive use, including the expense of a provider visit, contraceptive supplies, and travel; stigma; and inadequate health education. Overall, 86% of advocates were strongly or somewhat in favor of the birth control pill being available OTC, and 85% stated women would be more likely to use the birth control pill if available OTC.