Do you ever wonder why things have to be so hard?
I frequently do, and more often than not, when I start investigating, I find a government rule or regulation responsible for whatever hassle I’m facing at the moment. Such was the case when I recently made the decision to go back on oral birth control.
Since I’ve chosen to live my life as an open book, we’ll get a little personal here. I was first put on birth control in ninth grade, but not for contraceptive purposes. Rather I had a potentially life-threatening issue with my pituitary gland (a small but vastly important little part of your brain) and the hormones found in common birth control bills were able to treat it.
But to get it, my family and I had to jump through some hoops. The price of birth control at that time was around $70 per month. Pretty steep. We could get the price reduced since I was being prescribed the medicine for alternate reasons, but that required an override from my doctor with my insurance every month. And thus began a very time-consuming monthly process I had to go through for the rest of high school and college.
Get a doctor’s visit (OBGYN appointments can take months to get into). Pay a specialist co-pay (around $60). Obtain my prescription for the year. Take it to be filled. Fight with the insurance company for a few hours, place numerous calls to my doctor, and finally get the price lowered to $30 a month.
All in all, to say that only a well-positioned high schooler could’ve completed this process is an understatement. I had to have involved and supportive parents to help me through the undertaking. They needed to have good insurance. I needed access to a good doctor who knew how to work the system. And still, we spent hundreds of dollars a year for me to be on a basic medicine.
It was all absurd.
My struggles with birth control haven’t stopped there. Not even close. Anytime I’ve needed to go on it throughout my life I’ve had to get into a doctor, wait a significant amount of time, and pay at least $100 or more for the visits and prescription. You get the picture.
Some of this has been made easier in recent years with telehealth services online that allow women to opt into delivery services for their birth control. But still, it takes time, you have to have insurance, and you have to know how to navigate the system. Recently I had to spend a couple of hours on the phone with a provider getting my insurance straightened out on their backend, and still had to wait about two weeks to actually get the pills.
Why does all of this matter?
Quite simply, the average young girl does not have the ability to navigate or pay for this system—especially without supportive parents. And when young women cannot obtain birth control in an expedient and affordable manner the result is unwanted pregnancies. Point blank.
Anyone who claims to want to limit abortion must care about these issues. No matter what happens with Roe v. Wade, the root cause of abortions will always be unwanted pregnancies. Reducing accidental pregnancies will reduce abortions no matter what happens with the law.
Studies show the top reasons women seek abortions come down to finances, timing, partner-related issues, and a desire to focus on their other children. All of these are circumstances that easy access to birth control could solve before there is another life on the line.
In fact, the trends show a precipitous drop in abortions over the past 30 years as the aforementioned have become more widely available. However, that’s a trend that may be beginning to reverse itself, likely given the uncertainty of the times we’re living in and high inflation.
Fortunately, the movement to make birth control available over the counter is gaining steam. Recently, the American Medical Association joined the cause and called on the FDA to remove its regulations that currently make this impossible.
The American Medical Association is joining calls for the FDA to make birth control pills accessible over the counter.
"It takes on a new urgency as we look down the path of having the loss of the right to abortion in this country." https://t.co/8EWsTPSt47
— Axios (@axios) June 18, 2022
Birth control should be available over the counter. The current restriction has little to nothing to do with health and safety concerns but rather represents lobbying by the medical community for regulations that force consumers into their offices.
In fact, many other countries already have birth control available over the counter including China, India, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, South Africa, Korea, and Russia. Oddly, research shows that it’s actually the wealthier countries that still require a prescription and impose the associated costs on their population.
This isn’t to say birth control has no risks or side effects. But, increasingly, the prevailing medical opinion is that women are capable of screening themselves for these risks. Do you smoke? Then you’re at a risk for blood clots and probably shouldn’t take birth control. Are you pregnant? Make sure you’re not before you begin taking the pill. You get the idea. At most, a simple screening questionnaire at the pharmacy should be enough to check these boxes.
Making birth control available over the counter would reduce the costs (especially for those who do not have insurance), and almost more importantly, it would make birth control quick and easy to access.
Stop making life harder on women than it needs to be. This is a common-sense reform the FDA should implement immediately.