We know birth control pills prevent countless unplanned pregnancies a year, but only if you have the means, insurance, and time to get a prescription at the doctor first. For young people, especially low-income and marginalized youth, the obstacles to gaining and filling a prescription for birth control can be insurmountable.
Young people shouldn’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops to gain access to the contraceptive care they need. Like condoms and emergency contraception — the pill should be available over-the-counter as it is in over 100 countries around the world.
Emergency contraception, like Plan B, used to only be available with a prescription as well. It’s only available over-the-counter today because people organized, educated their community, and demanded it. Support the #FreeThePill Youth Council and help make birth control accessible to all by ensuring that birth control pills over the counter are covered by insurance and without age restrictions.
Q: How would a pill move over-the-counter?
A: For a pill to go over the counter in the United States, a drug company will have to submit an application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It will probably take 3-4 years from the time a drug company begins an application process until a successful pill is available on the shelf. At this time no company has submitted an application.
Q: What do medical professionals think about over-the-counter birth control?
A: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), reviewed much of the published evidence documenting the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter access to the pill, and after weighing the risks and benefits, concluded that it should be available over the counter in the US. In addition, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) supports over-the-counter access to oral contraception without a prescription. The American Medical Association has also recommended that manufacturers of oral contraceptives submit the required application and supporting evidence to the US Food and Drug Administration for consideration for a switch from prescription to over-the-counter status.
Q: Will this make BC more expensive for young people who previously had it covered by insurance?
A: Cost is one of the most important barriers to care for young people, which is why we are supporting both state and federal legislation to expand insurance coverage to over-the-counter methods, even without a prescription. Some states have already enacted such legislation, and there is currently a bill introduced in both houses of Congress that would expand these protections at the federal level.
Q: Should teens be able to get on medication that has side effects without their parents knowledge?
A: Teens are already capable of managing over-the-counter medications, regardless of their parents’ involvement. The available information suggests that people of all ages are able to self-screen for side effects and contraindications when it comes to oral contraception.
In honor of World Contraception day this project by Free the Pill and Advocates for Youth highlights the voices of young folks and their perspective on having access to birth control.