Where Do You Stand on Making the Birth Control Pill Available Over the Counter?
Originally Published: March 1, 2016
Revised: March 3, 2016
In my health class, we were taught that condoms are the easiest and best birth control option and that if a condom failed or we had unprotected sex, emergency contraception (EC)—also known by the brand name Plan B—was available to buy. We didn’t usually talk about the Pill. Both condoms and EC are accessible to teens because they are sold over the counter, which means that you can go to a drugstore and buy them without having to show ID or fill a prescription. Certain things, however, are off limits to teenagers who just stroll in to their local stores, including the birth control pill, which requires a prescription.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study conducted between 2006 and 2010, 82 percent of sexually active women have used the Pill. It’s also a fantastic choice of contraception for teenagers, since it’s 99.7-percent effective at preventing a pregnancy with perfect use and 92-percent effective with typical use. (Reminder: The Pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so it is important to still use condoms.)
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a respected medical board of women’s health doctors, has recommended for the past three years that the Pill be available over-the-counter. I believe that following their suggestion would be a good thing for sexually active girls looking for hormonal contraceptives.
I wondered why something so useful to teen health is so restricted, and I asked some other teens where they stood on the issue.
Easier Access Is the Way to Go
Many people believe that having the Pill become as easy to buy in stores as a chocolate bar—although more expensive—is a right that needs to be given to girls across America.
“Honestly, girls need to know that they can get the Pill whenever they want. It’s a necessity,” says Liv Dawson, 17, from New York City. “A lot of the time we see commercials about KY Jelly [a brand of lubricant in stores] or Trojan condoms, but the Pill needs to be promoted just as much since it gives girls more control.”
If girls can make the choice to buy the Pill over the counter, they can take responsibility for preventing a pregnancy into their own hands.
Christian Miller, 18, from Washington, D.C., agrees. “It’s important that birth control pills be over the counter, if only because people have a right to buy whatever they want. If Plan B is available without a prescription, then the Pill needs to be. Emergency contraception is hormonal, just like the Pill!”
Not Everyone Agrees
While getting the Pill now can be annoying or slow compared to walking into a drugstore and buying it off the shelf, many teens are worried that having to buy it over the counter will be more expensive than getting it through their doctor or Planned Parenthood, making it less accessible.
Derek Branson, 14, from Montclair, NJ, says that he isn’t sure whether the Pill should be available over the counter, because of cost. “I’ve seen Plan B in stores, and it’s so expensive! At my local store, it’s around $50,” he says. “I feel like it’s cheaper to just go to a clinic since if you don’t have much money, you can sometimes get the Pill for free.”
Some other teens are unsure because of possible health risks.
Samantha Dunn, 17, from Boston says, “There are too many types of oral contraceptives out there for an over-the-counter situation to be safe.”
There is always the risk that birth control pills could cause negative side effects or be less effective when used with other medications, which is why all teens should be careful before starting the Pill or any other new drug, but I think that teens having easier access to highly effective birth control outweighs these risks.
It’s still up for debate whether or not the Pill should be as simple to buy as a magazine, but until then, talk to your doctor or visit a local clinic to see if the Pill is right for you.
Use our clinic finder to find health centers near you.
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