Youth Activists on 100 Campuses Join the Movement to Free the Pill

With the creation of the Free the Pill Youth Network, youth activists from across the country are demanding access to birth control that’s over the counter, covered by insurance, and without age-restriction.


Washington, DC – Today, a youth-led movement launched to support Free the Pill, an effort started in 2014 to educate and engage the public in support of an over-the-counter (OTC) birth control option in the United States. For young people, especially low-income and marginalized youth, the obstacles to gaining and filling a prescription for birth control can be insurmountable. That’s why Advocates for Youth and Ibis Reproductive Health are partnering with youth activists as they work toward a future where ALL young people have access to the contraceptives they need.


Led by a Youth Council of 10 youth activists from across the country, over 100 college campuses have signed up to participate in the council’s first actionflooding social media feeds with images of what it would look like if birth control pills were available on the shelves at CVS, Walgreens, RiteAid and more.


“Emergency contraception, like Plan B, used to only be available by prescription,” said Rose Schnabel, a Free the Pill Youth Council member. “Emergency contraception is available over the counter today because people organized and educated their community. I’m excited to join the Free the Pill Youth Council to make over-the-counter, accessible birth control a reality as well.”


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 from a doctor in the first place. As partners work towards securing FDA approval for an over-the-counter birth control pill, the Free the Pill Youth Network will ensure that young people’s demands for accessible birth control are heard. 


“Young people shouldn’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops to gain access to the contraceptive care they need,” said Rebecca Thimmesch, Free the Pill campaign manager at Advocates for Youth. “Like condoms and emergency contraception — the pill should be available over the counter and without age restriction.” 


Birth control pills are incredibly safe and already meet the FDA’s guidelines for over-the-counter sale. Leading medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have formally come out in support of OTC access to the pill, and additional medical associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Nurses Association, support the effort


“Access to safe and effective birth control gives people the freedom to make empowered decisions about their sexual and reproductive health,” said Kate Grindlay Kelly, Free the Pill project director at Ibis Reproductive Health. “For young people, especially those struggling to make ends meet, barriers like the cost of a doctor’s visit, insurance coverage, missing work, and transportation can put a birth control prescription out of reach. We’re proud to partner with youth activists to make birth control available over the counter to ensure people have the ability to control their health and lives, however much money they have.”


To learn more, visit https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/campaigns/free-the-pill-youth-council/