Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Poll: 70% Favor Legalizing Over-The-Counter Birth Control


The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds 70 percent of Americans favor legalizing over-the-counter birth control pills and patches without a doctor's prescription, 26 percent oppose such a proposal, and 4 percent don't know enough to say. There has been a slight uptick in support for OTC birth control, rising from 66 percent in May of 2013. Moreover, Reason-Rupe finds that women across income groups highly support legalizing OTC birth control at about the same rates.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have announced their support for such a proposal arguing it could improve contraceptive access and use and decrease unintended pregnancy rates. Republicans too have been pushing for this reform, with Democrats surprisingly reluctant.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal raised the idea in 2012 in his widely read Wall Street Journal op-ed:

"As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others. And parents who believe, as I do, that their teenage children shouldn't be involved with sex at all do not deserve ridicule."

Planned Parenthood and some Democrats have pushed back, expressing concerns that legalizing OTC birth control would require women to pay for it, rather than have it paid for by their health insurance premiums. For instance, Rebecca Leber explained:

"For low-income women, cost can be what's most prohibitive. Under the Affordable Care Act, the pill and other forms of contraception count as preventative care, which means insurance covers them completely—without any out-of-pocket expenses."

Planned Parenthood recently released an ad in North Carolina warning: "Just when insurance is finally covering the cost of prescription birth control, Thom Tillis [the Republican] says no—women should pay the $600 dollars a year…he's turning the pill into yet another bill." To be clear, Democrats are not necessarily opposed to legalizing OTC birth control, but rather they want to ensure women don't have to pay for it.

Reason's own Elizabeth Brown has countered:

"Affordability isn't the only factor in making something accessible. Those championing the contraception mandate as a way to increase access assume everyone always has insurance coverage. What about undocumented women? Or those between jobs and temporarily uninsured? What about young women who can't let their parents know they're on the pill? Or domestic abuse victims who want to keep this information from their husbands? These are just a few of the situations in which a woman would find OTC pills much more accessible and affordable than the prescription-only kind, even if those prescription pills came with no co-pay."

Despite costs concerns, OTC birth control legalization receives strong support from women across income groups at roughly the same rates. Among women making less than $30,000 a year, 65 percent support legalization and 35 percent oppose. In the middle, women making between $30K-$60K a year support the proposal 70 to 29 percent. And again, among women making more than $60,000 a year, 67 percent support and 32 percent oppose legalizing OTC birth control.

Men too support legalization, 71 percent to 21 percent, similar to women, 68 to 30 percent.

In addition, support for legalization is high across race and ethnicity. Seventy-two percent of Caucasians, 73 percent of African-Americans, and 61 percent of Hispanics say OTC birth control should be legal.

Legalization has bi-partisan support as well. In fact, Republicans and Democrats support it at roughly the same level (65% and 69% respectively) with Independents even more in favor (74%).

Elite debate over the issue has trickled down to some degree, with libertarians (75%) and conservatives (71%) more in favor than liberals (64%) and communitarians (62%). (Political groups identified using the Reason-Rupe three-question screen).

Despite concerns over the cost of OTC birth control, strong majorities across income groups favor the proposal. For instance, 64 percent of Americans making less than $30,000 annually support legalization as do 69 percent of those making more than $100,000.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1004 adults on cell phones (503) and landlines (501) October 1-6, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.8%. Full poll results can be found here including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls). 

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  1. 70% of Millenials? (PBUT) fear there are no Mourning Lynx.

    Isn’t that what this REALLY says?

  2. Since when does birth control cost $50/month?

    1. It apparently costs more than a trip to Venice.

    2. I’m assuming that includes the cost of a doctor’s visit to get the scrip.

      1. Isnt that free with Ocare?

      2. But they’re using that to counter the idea of it being available OTC, in which case you wouldn’t need the doctor’s visit.

        Not that they’re above mendacity…

    3. There are a few people that have bad side effects with the common cheap pills, and need something that’s more expensive.

      Of course, those people are *exactly* the same people for whom OTC Plan B is no substitute.

  3. This is most dangerous. What if they did allow OTC birth control? The next thing you know, people might get the idea of other drugs being available without a doctors permission slip. Pretty soon you might have people getting the idea that other medical tasks might be accomplished without 15 years of education and where would we be then? Hmmm? Doctors and their corresponding attorneys might go out of business! Drug prohibition is economic stimulus!

    It is immoral to take any drugs without paying a doctor a ton of cash first. That permission slip makes taking drugs moral.

  4. Planned Parenthood and some Democrats have pushed back, expressing concerns that legalizing OTC birth control would require women to pay for it, rather than have it paid for by their health insurance premiums.

    A stated preference (a woman’s right to make choices over her own body) butts heads with a revealed preference (bigger government as its own reward).

    1. This has been a pretty hilarious move by the republicans. As stupid as they usually are, they’ve played this one pretty well.

  5. It’ll never work. Making a woman go to a store and pay for birth control is oppression.

  6. Dammit how hard is it to pull out?

  7. concerns that legalizing OTC birth control would require women to pay for it, rather than have it paid for by their health insurance premiums.

    *stands on chair, slips head through noose*

  8. Men support it more than women. Hmmm…although the difference probably isnt statistically significant.

  9. What’s ridiculous about this is that you can still get a prescription for OTC medicines if you want. There’s a number of OTC medicines that various insurance, including Medicaid, will cover with a prescription. That would also make it HSA eligible under the new Obamacare limits on HSAs for OTC medicine. The law even expressly allows people to use HSAs for OTC insulin in states that have that, even without a prescription.

    OTC birth control would add an option, but you could still get a prescription for it if you really wanted. It would just remove the annoying aspect of running out of / forgetting the pill when you go on a trip.

  10. And what percentage supports that it be free?

  11. So how’s this going down? None of the mfrs. seem to want to apply for a New Drug Appl’n to FDA to switch from Rx to OTC; perhaps they fear an increase in liability. Another option would be a citizen’s petition to FDA to change the rule, which would come in a couple of possible forms: (1) a NDA with the citizen as sponsor/applicant, which would run into $; (2) an application for an administrative rule change, which could be much cheaper than a NDA. Barring those, Congress could amend the FFDCA to say that, for instance, any BCP (product intended for that purpose) marketed before a certain date could continue to be marketed but that it could not be considered “adulterated” merely for not being dispensed by prescription. Or if no action by Congress or administration, it could be done with much greater difficulty state by state, either administratively (by the pharmacy board) or legislatively, but that would be only for pills mfd. in the same state. Or a state or the federal gov’t could do as with “emergency” birth control and expand the types of professionals who could prescribe BCPs to include pharmacists.

  12. “…with Democrats surprisingly reluctant.”

    Surprisingly to whom?

  13. “For low-income women, cost can be what’s most prohibitive. Under the Affordable Care Act, the pill and other forms of contraception count as preventative care, which means insurance covers them completely?without any out-of-pocket expenses.”

    “For a middle income bourbon drinker cost can be what’s most prohibitive. Under the Affordable Care Act, bourbon and other forms of alcohol “don’t” count as preventative care, which means insurance does’t cover them at all — so it’s all, an out of pocket expense.”

    So I have to choose between the $50 bottle of Bookers or the $20 bottle of Eagle Rare, I guess that makes me pro choice because I get to choose. Hmmmmm maybe it would be better if I forced everyone else to pay for my “piece of mind”

    Nah, then I’d be just like those whiney cunts.

  14. Of course if Obama hadn’t eliminated the option of paying for OTC meds via Flexible Spending Accounts, they would be even less expensive (i.e. paying with pre-tax dollars). The opponents are also conveniently ignoring the expense of a visit to the doctors office to retrieve the magic slip of paper.

  15. Clearly the common-sense nuanced thoughtful progressive solution is to require men to visit the prophylactoallergist every time they’d like to buy a package of condoms – because you never know who might have latex and/or lubricant allergies, and you never know who might be exaggerating their dimensions. Right, lads, we’ll have to measure you. In the erect state, please. Just think of oppressing womynkind and that should do.

    A prostate cancer exam should also be required and never you mind the false positives.

    (I assume readers can infer the necessary histrionics and chin-quivering that should accompany the above.)

  16. I have heard that birth control pills are available over-the-counter in almost every country except the United States.

    Doesn’t sound like there should even be much discussion this. Legalize It!

  17. I’m all for making birth control more easily available, but making it blanket-OTC isn’t a great solution, scientifically speaking. Since women’s hormonal balances can vary so much on an individual basis, there is no one-size-fits-all combined oral contraceptive–there are a lot of different ones, all with different amounts of progestins and estrogens. Perhaps this would be a good place for pharmacists to be able to make prescriptions.

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