Monday, August 15, 2011


...not quite.

BUT, you can help provide some data for a study by The Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group to learn about the public's attitudes towards OTC oral contraceptives. In light of the government's recent approval of copay-free contraception, as well as other preventative services, this group based in Ibis Reproductive Health wants your opinion on taking this one step further to maximize access; OTC contraceptives.

In order for such groups to properly advocate for change, they need to understand the motivations and desires of their target groups. So, let them know! Take 5 minutes to complete the survey.


It gave me lots to think about, and I want to pose some discussion questions on the subject. Comment if you have any feelings about them!

a) Will users start skipping their annual gynecological visits if they are no longer required for getting oral contraceptives (OCs)?

b) Will users will feel even more stigmatized having the pimply 16-yr-old cashier ring up their OCs?

c) Will they be sold next to the condoms or behind the counter with the emergency contraception (EC)?

d) What are the implications for users forgoing EC due to all the procurement constraints and using OCs as EC instead (of which I am a big advocate, btw). Is this a detriment to full-on EC promotion? Might EC become obsolete, assuming that barriers to procuring it are greater than those for OCs?

e) Can they print up discreet receipts that don't list the product name?

f) Can cashiers refuse to ring it up citing the conscience clause?

Lots to think about! I'm sure this is not even close to happening anytime soon, but good to be prepared in any case. Discuss, I'd love your opinions!


  1. As for number 1...if women are currently unable to receive birth control because they can't afford their annual exam, does this matter? I think that making the annual exam a requirement for obtaining oral contraceptives is wrong. The choice is up to the woman whether or not she should go for an annual, and she may not even be able to afford it. I still think she should have the option to get contraceptives.

    For that matter, my school's clinic said that they really only needed me to come every two years for my exam, because of my low-risk for STD's, etc. But everywhere else requires it every year, and it's expensive. I tend to think that because I am at low-risk for STD's, cervical cancer, I should have the right to only go every two years or so and still obtain contraceptives.

  2. I can't get the link to work, it goes to a page not found notice.

    I have always found the argument a) patriarchal and stupid. Why use the exam to control women? For one, the recommendations for married women are for a pap every two years anyway, why steal my limited money more often than that? Oh, that's right because men control the situation! Never mind that they write the script for 12 and there are actually 13 4 week months in a year, thus forcing me back earlier and earlier every year with their control freak induced sword of Damocles. And the last thing we can have is a woman in charge of her sexuality. You'll have to forgive me, I live in Mississippi and therefore in a constant state of pissed-offness about the godbags and knobs that control every pharmacy and ob/gyn in sight. OTC pills are *way* *way* overdue.

  3. Ack! Jenni I've fixed the link.

    Thanks for your responses regarding question 1. I didn't mean to imply that I think this is a problem. I agree that it's lame to force a woman to get an exam, especially if it's unnecessary, in order to get OCPs. BUT, what if that mandate was the only reason she went at all, and misses key opportunities to be screened for STIs and etc? How do we continue to encourage women to present for necessary preventative care if it's no longer required? Just food for thought.

  4. Thanks! Survey taken.

    "I didn't mean to imply that I think this is a problem." Agreed, I responded as though I was talking to you about something the opposition said. Because I assume that is one of the often stated reasons for it not to be otc.

    I don't think it will have an effect on the seeking of care. For one, women aren't dumb and they aren't generally a glutton for punishment. Even the teens I had worked with knew the need for paps and screenings. I think it would actually increase the use of medical care over time as fewer abortions and unwanted children mean that what limited funds are there for the lower income and young especially can be spent on actual needs. So I would say it's about education. Continuing to let women know these screenings are important. I mean, access to otc pain meds doesn't mean that I never see a doc about that knee that continues to give me a problem. Also, imo, if we are really concerned about paps and screenings why on earth haven't we gotten universal healthcare? I know, separate conversation, but I think it's relevant when the naysayers bring up the argument.

    But let me ask this. Let's assume that all the fears are right, that women will never, ever get paps because they can get the pill otc. Let's assume every fear is real. *Do we have the right to withhold medication we know can prevent a difficult situation in order to force participation in the medical screenings?* My answer is no. In the end that fundamental expression of power is what I find so troubling. The threat of unwanted pregnancy should not be used to get women in the stirrups. That part is fundamentally, at its heart, very troubling to me.

  5. Jenni, you rocked my world with your spot-on insights. Please keep reading!

  6. Ditto, Jenni, thank you for saying that! I was so steamed when a provider at my student health center, years back, revealed to me that Paps aren't actually more necessary for OCP-using women, it's just that OCP scripts are a carrot to get women in for their Paps. But there was nothing we could do about it because that was the center's guidelines, she shrugged. The clinic I work at now hasn't required a Pap smear as a hurdle to birth control for years, and I'm really grateful. Totally agree that it's disgustingly paternalistic, so that's gross, in addition to the other logical arguments e.g. about money being saved for legitimately-needed care later.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.