OTC Birth Control: Are We Putting Women at Risk for Convenience?
Birth control is a hotly contested issue in America.
For some, it's a no-brainer right that all women should have access to. Period. For others, it's a gray area that some feel they should not have to be a part of, as it goes against religious beliefs. And for even others, it's a medicine that comes with risks and side effects and deserves to be treated as such.
Regardless of your stance on birth control, until recently there has only been one way to access it: make an appointment with your OB/GYN or visit a walk-in women's clinic, have a consultation, and receive a prescription for the patch or pill — if that's what you would choose. (IUDs would be inserted in the office, as well as the forms of birth control requiring injections.) Under no circumstances would you ever self-prescribe your own birth control unless, of course, you are the sort that practices an alternative form of birth control.
But now, for the first time in history, women may have access to birth control over the counter.
According to state law in California, women now have the right to purchase birth control OTC. They will still need a prescription for the birth control (still considered medication, of course), but the prescription will simply be provided by the pharmacist instead of their OB/GYN or a different doctor in a clinic.
The law that allows this new change in protocol was actually passed in 2013 but wasn't finalized until this summer. And in addition to allowing birth control to be sold OTC, it also allows pharmacists to prescribe smoking cessation patches, adjust insulin regimens for diabetes, and administer vaccines.
Meant to help ease the burden of doctors short on time and increase convenience for patients who don't have time to visit a doctor's office and wait for “routine” medications, the law has raised some concerns. Birth control, for instance, does carry serious risks for some women, and it is always best to check with a primary care provider to evaluate your risks, along with what type of birth control is right for you.
In my mind, this law may be a dangerous thing, not because women can't be trusted to choose their own birth control, but because it is looking to swap out one overburdened, swamped doctor for the next. Forcing a pharmacist (who won't be paid any extra) to prescribe birth control to women while he or she is performing the necessary tasks of preparing other medications just doesn't seem fair to me. Routine refills are one thing, but women choosing a new form of birth control, for example, deserve to be counseled and have the right time and attention from a doctor totally dedicated to meeting their needs.
What do you think? Should birth control be available over the counter?