In most countries in the world, women are able to access birth control without a prescription. However, with the exception of California and Oregon, women are unable to get birth over-the-counter in the United States.
California and Oregon are two states which have passed laws to expand access to contraceptives and more states are expected to follow as well. In both states, the laws aim to make it so women can get oral contraceptives right from the pharmacist, but as we found out, more than six months after the bill has been enacted, it’s still nearly impossible to do this in San Francisco.
Below are six reasons why birth control should be more accessible in the United States.
1.) Health Benefits for Women
In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute estimated that 1.5 million women use birth control to help with medical issues such as ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and endometrial cancer. They also found that more than 58% of birth control users cite other medical issues in addition to preventing a pregnancy, such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, preventing menstrual side effects, and treating acne.
2.) Better Care for Women and their Families
In a study by Jennifer Frost and Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute, it was found that women use birth control because it “allows them to better care for themselves and their families, complete their education and achieve economic security.”
Earlier this week, I asked Rachelle Suissa, president of the Brooklyn-Queens National Organization for Women (NOW) about the importance of birth control being more accessible. According to Suissa,
Birth control should be more accessible for women in the United States because increasing numbers of women in their twenties and early thirties are choosing to postpone marriage and motherhood in favor of pursuing academic, career and other related goals. Therefore, birth control is essential to their ability to achieve the work-life balance so that when they have completed their professional goals, they would be able to successfully focus on having a family. Having access to birth control is key to increasing the number of women on corporate boards, school boards, and in public office.
3.) Access to Birth Control Reduces the Teen Birth Rate
Last year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that the state’s teen birth rate dropped 40% between 2009 and 2013. This was in large part due to a program which provides contraception to low-income women.
4.) Access to Birth Control Decreases Abortion Rates
Lack of readily available contraception and sex education is one of the top reasons for abortions. In 2014, a study by Washington University School of Medicine researchers, showed that when barriers to contraceptive access are removed, teen pregnancy and abortion rates plummet.
5.) Seventy Percent Favor Legalizing Over-the-Counter Birth Control
Today, over 99% of women ages 15-44 have used at least one contraceptive method. This is an issue which women across the political spectrum seem to agree with- it should be available without a prescription. According to a Reason-Rupe poll, “70 percent of Americans favor legalizing over-the-counter birth control pills and patches without a doctor’s prescription.”
6.) It Saves Taxpayers Billions of Dollars
According to a study posted in the New England Journal of Medicine, “In 2010, births involving teenage mothers cost the United States nearly $10 billion in increased public assistance and health care and in income lost as a result of lower educational attainment and reduced earnings among children born to teenage mothers.” By preventing pregnancies, taxpayers would save billions of dollars each year.