By Colt Wasserman, MD
This summer, after nearly 20 years of work by reproductive justice advocates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first over-the-counter (OTC) birth control pill in the United States. Opill, AKA norgestrel 0.075 mg, is a progestin-only oral contraceptive that can be safely used by sexually active people to prevent pregnancy.
This is great news!
It’s a victory after a year of steadily increasing attacks on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. It’s in sync with public opinion, given that 9 in 10 adults believe everyone deserves access to the full range of contraception options and over 70 percent of adults in the U.S. support making birth control pills available over the counter. It’s completely safe, as confirmed by leading medical associations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
And, not least of all, a birth control pill that doesn’t require a prescription is a win for patients seeking reproductive and sexual health care – especially those from historically marginalized communities, including Black and Indigenous folx, people living with disabilities, LGBTQ+ folx, immigrants, people struggling to make ends meet, and young people. The FDA’s decision has removed a major barrier to accessing oral contraception: Folx will no longer need to book a doctor’s appointment in order to start taking the birth control pill, and they can avoid all the related obstacles (getting time off for the appointment, finding childcare, finding transportation, etc.). Opill empowers patients to make their own reproductive decisions, on their own time, and at their own convenience.
To be clear, increased access to birth control is not a solution to the ongoing assault on abortion access and sexual and reproductive health care. But it is critical to protecting our reproductive freedom. As we celebrate the approval of Opill alongside the Free the Pill Coalition, who has led this movement, Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York will continue to work with our partners to advocate for the removal of economic, political, and social barriers to care.