Birth control use is overwhelmingly common. In 2018, 65 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age were using a contraceptive method, and 99 percent of women use at least one method during their lifetime. Yet one-third of adult women in the United States have reported facing barriers to receiving a prescription, including difficulty obtaining an appointment or reaching a clinic. Access to contraceptives is particularly important for individuals who may not live within reasonable distance to a pharmacy, lack reliable transportation, have work or care schedules that prohibit travel, or have disabilities that make travel difficult.
Globally, over 100 countries have already made birth control pills available over-the-counter (OTC). It is long past time for the United States to join them. Not only do OTC oral contraceptive pills have the potential to fill some of the gaps in access seen across the United States by eliminating the need for a prescription, but they are also safe and effective. Today, on Free the Pill Day—and over 60 years after the first contraceptive pill was approved in the U.S.—the FDA is reviewing an application for what would be the first oral contraceptive available over-the-counter. This long awaited and overdue move would reduce unnecessary barriers and expand access to contraception at a time when it’s needed more than ever.