Should the Pill be Available Over-the-Counter?

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The nation’s largest group of obstetricians and gynecologists is now advocating for making birth control pills available over-the-counter and without a prescription, saying it’s perfectly safe to do so.

Fox News is reporting that American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says a move away from prescription to over-the-counter status could help cut down on the number of unintended pregnancies.

“It’s unfortunate that in this country where we have all these contraceptive methods available, unintended pregnancy is still a major public health problem,” said Dr. Kavita Nanda, an OB/GYN who co-authored the opinion for the doctors group.

Scientists have been promising that the pill will cut down on uinintended pregnancies and abortion since its advent 60 years ago – a promise that has yet to be realized. But  Nanda claims that if we just make the pill easier to access, women who can’t afford doctor’s visits or who can’t get an appointment in time when their pills are running low would be able to “pick it up in the middle of the night if they run out.”

She claims non-prescription status would remove “those types of barriers” and allow women to get the pills when they need them.

This rather unconvincing argument becomes even less persuasive when the doctors discuss the safety of giving out synthetic hormones to women without a prescription.

First, they claim that birth control pills are safe and that blood clots, which is the main serious side effect, happen very rarely. Tell that to the women represented by 12,000 currently pending lawsuits against the manufacturer of the trendy new Yaz and Yasmine pills who suffered clots and other serious injury from this drug.

The doctors insist that the kind of blood clot risks associated with the pill are higher during pregnancy and right after giving birth. What they don’t say is that pregnancy and childbirth don’t contain class 1 carcinogens that are linked to breast, cervical and liver cancers. They also neglect to mention that taking the pill increases a woman’s risk of developing cerebrovascular disease (hypertension and stroke) by 1.9 times.

Second, they claim women can easily tell if they have risk factors, such as smoking or having a previous clot, and should avoid taking the pill. Yes, women in these categories should avoid doing so, but will they, especially when there’s no doctor to prevent them from doing so?

Third, they claim there’s no need for a Pap smear or pelvic exam before using birth control pills, but women should get check-ups if they’re on the pill. Again, women should do this, but will they? If, as Dr. Nanda claims, they can’t be responsible enough to make a doctor’s appointment in time to have their supply refilled, what makes these doctors think they’ll get checkups when no one is forcing them to do so?

The answer to these questions is simple – women will get more pills, but less medical care. This is because the phony war on women is intent on increasing access no matter what the cost to society – even to the women themselves.

Speaking of costs, should the pill go over-the-counter, it will no longer qualify under the health care law’s contentious birth control mandate, which means women would have to pay for it themselves. Naturally, the doctors want the issue of cost to be addressed when this matter is taken up by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In the meantime, the FDA says it is willing to meet with any company interested in making the pill nonprescription, to discuss what if any studies would be needed.

Let’s hope these studies will be better than those conducted on women’s “reproductive health” products in the past, such as the abortion pill – RU-486 – which was rushed through the FDA approval process in the waning days of President Bill Clinton’s presidency in September, 2000. To date, it has killed 14 while causing one in fourteen women to suffer bleeding severe enough to require a doctor’s attention.

Then there’s the infamous Dalkon Shield, an intrauterine device aggressively marketed to women in the 1970s even after studies revealed its dangers. The Shield caused the deaths of 16 and resulted in 300,000 lawsuits from women who suffered serious injury.

And let’s not forget Gardasil, the vaccine now given to children as young as nine years to protect them against a sexually transmitted disease that can only be contracted through sexual contact. It was never tested on girls younger than the age of 15 before it was introduced to the public. To date, there have been more than 18,000 reports of adverse effects and at least 82 deaths.

Unfortunately, this list could go on and on. Suffice to say, the much touted women’s “reproductive health” in the U.S. isn’t nearly what it’s cracked up to be – and never will be as long as so many special interest groups can continue to profit off of our bodies.

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