On November 7th, the Trump administration announced their plan to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate. Specifically, Trump wants to let employers deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control based on “religious or moral” grounds. In response to this attack on women’s health and in celebration of Thanks, Birth Control! Day, If/When/How Reproductive Justice Policy Fellow at URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity Monica Edwards explains why we need the over the counter birth control pill to combat these barriers to access.
It seems like, every day, the Trump administration finds a new way to make it harder for people to get birth control. So far, he’s made it easier for employers to deny insurance coverage of birth control for their employees (and for universities to deny coverage for their students), he’s chipping away at the Affordable Care Act—which allows 55 million women to get their birth control without paying anything at the pharmacy counter—and he’s rewriting government family planning programs.
The realities of life already get in the way of accessing birth control. Not everyone is able to take time off work, afford transportation, or pay for child care in order to go to their doctor, just to get a birth control prescription. For those without insurance, paying for a doctor’s visit and for the prescription out of pocket can put the pill out of reach. For those who are LGBTQ, non-binary, an immigrant, or an intersection of these identities, worrying about revealing your family’s status or being shamed at the doctor’s office pushes the pill even further out of reach. Young people often feel the weight of these barriers most acutely.
There are so many reasons why we need birth control options that work for everyone, and the Trump administration’s actions have made those needs even more immediate. Here are five reasons why making the birth control pill available over the counter is such an important step for greater access:
1Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.
If birth control pills were available over the counter, there would be fewer unnecessary barriers to getting them. While having a yearly visit with your doctor is important for other health reasons, it’s not necessary to safely and effectively use birth control. Without having to go through the trouble of going to the doctor for a prescription, anyone can visit the pharmacy the same day their previous pack ran out and minimize the time between refills that can lead to unintended pregnancies.
2Birth control pills are safe for many women.
People are already empowered to care for themselves with over-the-counter medications. There is no reason a birth control pill should be any different, especially if you already know you can take it safely. Major medical organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association support making the switch to OTC.
3People need a convenient way to get birth control.
The growth and popularity of online prescribers and apps available in some states show that people are looking for—and need—new ways to get their birth control with fewer obstacles. Moving the birth control pill over the counter would have an immediate sweeping impact for people all across the country.
4Barriers that make it harder to access birth control disproportionately impact women of color, especially trans folks of color.
Women of color at the poverty level experience higher rates of unintended pregnancies, and Black women experience higher rates compared to other racial/ethnic groups, regardless of income. Researchers find some women of color—again, especially Black women—experience implicit and explicit racism when interacting with the medical system, do not receive quality information about effective family planning methods, and are unable to access or afford reproductive health care.
Learn more about If/When/How and their work for reproductive justice here.