OTC Birth Control and its Hidden Costs

by Serena Graf

The topic of over-the-counter birth control was a surprising addition to electoral debates. Remarkably, Democrats, Republicans, women’s rights groups, big business and insurance companies all agree: OTC birth control should become a reality. However, despite this general agreement there is no consensus on the specifics of how to structure business model for the payment and supply of this medication.

What piqued the interest of pro-choice and women’s rights advocates was why big businesses and insurance companies are interested in trying to make contraceptives more easily accessible. By removing doctor’s visits and mandatory prescriptions from the process of acquiring contraceptives like the Pill, insurance companies are forcing women to pay the entirety of the bill. In essence, insurance companies and pharmaceutical businesses benefit by eliminating copay arrangements and shifting the burden of the cost onto a woman’s shoulders. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, which already help a percentage of women acquire birth control that would otherwise be financially out of reach, deem this unacceptable. Paying out-of-pocket for birth control may function to discourage or limit women’s use of the pill, putting them at a higher risk for pregnancy.

The motives for pushing over-the-counter birth control onto the legislative docket serves more to alleviate a burden to business entities and government rather than a burden on women. Though compromises have been proposed—for instance, online consultations and prescriptions for the Pill rather than in-person appointments—the sexual and reproductive health of American women is at stake.

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