Advocates for Youth Applauds Recommendation to Allow Young People to Buy Birth Control Pills Over-The-Counter

WASHINGTON, DC – Advocates for Youth commends the members of the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Obstetrics, Reproductive, and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee for following the science and recommending unanimously that a birth control pill be made available over the counter without age restriction.

“I’m thrilled the Advisory Committee saw through myths, misconceptions, and condescension today, and unanimously recommended the FDA bring a birth control pill over-the-counter without age restrictions,” said Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth. “The Biden Administration has pledged to ‘follow the science’ from the very beginning, so I’m certain the FDA will now follow this expert advice and finally give young people one more option for accessing life-changing birth control. We know that the far right will continue to attack and limit access to reproductive health care, and we need to ensure young people have everything they need to lead healthy lives and plan their futures.”

The pharmaceutical company Perrigo applied for over-the-counter status for its progesterone-only product Opill, and at the Joint Committee meeting, reproductive health advocates including health care providers, researchers, and several youth activists working with Advocates for Youth, testified not only on the safety and efficacy of birth control, but on young people’s need for an over the counter product.

Selections from young people’s testimony to the FDA: 

“When as a teenager I finally mustered the courage to open up to my parents and disclose that I needed contraception to help me feel safe, I was met with a stern no and a grounding. I was told that if not being given birth control would stop me from being active, then so be it, I would not get it. And so I continued having sex without birth control, all because I could not access it under the prescription-only system. This is even more likely in my home state of Texas today, as a judge has banned young people from getting birth control without parental consent at Title X clinics. Having Opill available over-the-counter would have solved this problem for me.” 

– Dyvia Huitron, 19.

“More than ever, bodily autonomy and the right to prevent and decide when/if one gets pregnant is one that we face so many barriers to. [My town] is a reproductive healthcare desert, and over 19 million women live in contraceptive deserts nationwide: There is a 9 month waitlist for IUDs at our overwhelmed local hospital, the closest Planned Parenthood is an hour away, and freshmen on campus aren’t allowed to have their own vehicles ( assuming all students they have a license and car at all)….These barriers represent only a few, and those on the margins experience the most barriers in terms of criminalization, stigma, and access/cost challenges under the current system and we need to recognize that.” 

– Beau Nelson, 20


Advocates for Youth conducted research in 2022 that found that the majority of young people around the country face barriers to accessing birth control, often resulting in delayed doses.. 

  • Of the 243 people from 42 states surveyed, an overwhelming majority (88%) struggled to access birth control, and 55% experienced so many barriers they could not start taking birth control on their preferred timeline.  
  • Of that 55% of respondents (133 people), 58% had a pregnancy scare, and 20% got pregnant when they didn’t want to.
  • Of those who failed to get on birth control pills due to barriers created by the prescription-only system, 57% were forced to delay renewing a prescription, and 45% reported needing to use Emergency Contraception.

Angela Maske, coordinator of the Free the Pill Youth Council, testified:

“The barriers that young people in particular are facing are so serious that for many, it is preventing them from getting on birth control pills when they would want to be or interrupting their usage of the pill once they’ve already gotten on it. And the impacts of these barriers are serious too — young people have reported not only unintended pregnancies, but health complications, financial problems, and emotional and psychological stress and trauma resulting from consequences of their lack of access to oral contraceptives.”

With an abundance of research supporting safety, efficacy, and need, Opill clearly meets the requirements for over the counter status. When the FDA make its final decision on Opill, we hope they will follow the recommendation of this advisory committee and approve Opill for over the counter purchase without age restriction.