Virginia Postrel (@vpostrel): Fight Birth-Control Battle Over the Counter
“[M]aking the pill available over the counter could reduce the amount of outrage and invective available for entertaining radio audiences, spurring political fundraising and otherwise amusing the American public. But the medical risks are quite low.
Partly because birth-control pills are available only by prescription, people tend to think they’re more dangerous and less well understood than they actually are.” . . . .
“Requiring a prescription “acts more as a barrier to access rather than providing medically necessary supervision,” argues Daniel Grossman of Ibis Reproductive Health, a research and advocacy group based in Massachusetts, in an article published in September in Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology.”” . . . .
“Aside from safety, the biggest argument for keeping birth-control pills prescription-only is, to put it bluntly, extortion. The current arrangement forces women to go to the doctor at least once a year, usually submitting to a pelvic exam, if they want this extremely reliable form of contraception. That demand may suit doctors’ paternalist instincts and financial interests, but it doesn’t serve patients’ needs.”
Lindsay Beyerstein (@Beyerstein): Prescription Birth Control is Not Extortion
“Most doctors will happily write refills for a whole year’s supply of birth control pills at once. If it’s too much of a hassle to go to the doctor once a year, it’s probably too much of a hassle to remember to buy the pill at regular intervals and take it every day.
Postrel suggests that women are just as good as doctors at finding their own contradindications with a checklist. But if a woman isn’t seeing a doctor at least once a year, she’s probably not up-to-date on her own risk factors. Most people don’t chart their own blood pressure, for example.
One key difference between birth control pills and OTC drugs is that the other drugs are designed for short-term use. Unlike Tylenol or Plan B (which has been extensively tested to prove it is safe to dispense over-the-counter), birth control pills are typically used continuously for months or even years. Any long-term medication requires a certain amount of medical oversight.”
Virginia Postrel (@vpostrel): via In These Times comments
“Aside from introducing readers to the evidence in favor of OTC provision of birth control pills, my article has also had the salutary effect of demonstrating just how paternalistic people who supposedly support the empowerment of women can be.”