Apr 1, 2012

Over-the-Counter Birth Control: Win Win for Everyone?

This is an interesting idea – The beloved Pill switched to simply being over-the-counter, available alongside other type common-ailment pills like cholesterol pills and migraine pills. The FDA is reportedly considering such things. And it sounds like a god-send in most cases. An article on Care2 described making birth control OTC as “win win.” Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan makes sweet sarcasm: “But without a doctor to look at them disapprovingly, how will sex-having ladies know to feel bad about themselves?” Birth control is easily twisted into an infuriating example of control over the rights of the female gender, as this process of control lies at the political core of most interpretations of Christianity. I think we also have to remember that, as far as control goes, here lies another all-American class issue.

As a mother of three daughters (two are now older teenagers), I can see the good side of easy access to birth control, believe me. As a woman who loves her birth control madly and who, being a teenager once, feared the scrutiny of physicians and her parents but had unprotected sex any way, I like the idea of lifting a stigma or two. Making birth control pills OTC - offering up a little Kiosk for diagnosis even more reliable than a doctor - is a way to potentially side-step the recent political war going on between “religious employers” bitching about being forced to pay for insurance covering “women’s health.” I use the quotes here because the terms have been twisted into all sorts of alternative terms, depending upon your approach and side, “women’s health” especially – a.k.a. “slutiness” “whoredom” “prostitution.”  If we make the Pill OTC, then we can tell everybody it’s up to the woman and only the woman, so the rest of the controlling world can shut the fuck up.

I’m all about short-cuts and easier paths. I’m one of those people who will cut across the pretty grass (barefoot, if possible) if it saves me a minute. But I think in our efforts to make things easier, we need to be careful not to overlook those who need the Pill the most. If the Pill becomes OTC, then the funding and livelihood of places like Planned Parenthood become absolutely VITAL.

Places like Planned Parenthood will be needed more than ever to provide birth control for those who need it most at reduced costs or FREE, otherwise making such pills OTC doesn’t offer much help for those who truly need it. I’m talking about those who qualify for and rely upon state health insurances or those who can’t even qualify for state health insurances, as the qualifying maze is too often impossible. We're not all able to slip into a drug store, buy our pills, and walk back out with a little brown bag and a shrug. The first thing I thought of when I read about this was the teenager who lives in poverty (most likely to become pregnant) who barely has a pot to piss in, let alone the money to afford the potential OTC cost of the Pill. And I’m not a pro when it comes to economy, but I could foresee the pill if it goes over-the-counter as not being cheap, simply because it will be high demand. Please tell me if I’m wrong (I am all for easing my worries). We should remember that carrying birth control on store shelves at all becomes up to the scrutiny of private store-owners, owners of massive chains like WalGreens and Wal-mart, which means more control in the hands of the great money makers who have proven themselves to be terrifyingly influential in our ways of living.

Here's what I know: my family and I have received state insurance before, and we have gone to many state-funded clinics. When you have a condition and the clinic’s physician looks at you and says, “Go buy this as treatment. It’s over-the-counter” (an action far more common today than it once was), your heart can drop. That treatment can cost more OTC than you can afford to spend. Of course, you can’t spend money you don’t have, especially if you’re receiving a tiny TANF check. You will skip the OTC suggestion. Or you will lie, tell him or her you’ve tried the OTC treatment before, and it doesn’t work, whatever it takes to get them to give you a prescription that will be covered by your insurance so there is no out-of-pocket expense, so you might instead pay your mother-fucking rent. And you will continue to lose faith in your doctor and in a system who refuses to understand what it’s like living in poverty.

Women who are below poverty level (and there are lots) need to have free and easy access to birth control. The Pill OTC doesn't necessarily solve that - in fact, in many cases, it makes access harder. The OTC solution won’t work so well if profit and the values of private business are left as priority over the good of all people.

To me, offering the Pill OTC feels like a sneaky way to appease the middle class woman (who actually has a voice).


  1. Yup. Good points. All the hoopla going on with the pharmacists not wanting to dispense shit could easily translate to Walgreens refusing to stock The Pill. Planned Parenthood is always going to be vital to poor women, because who the fuck else cares about poor women (and men!)'s reproductive health? It's so frustrating that even a step forward, which OTC BC feels like, isn't a step forward for everyone.

  2. You are void of understanding...

    People die from birth control pills. This is why they will not be OTC...research before you preach....

    1. Your comments never even make sense.