Birth Control

Pharmacists Can Now Prescribe Birth Control in Oregon. Why Not Make It Over-the-Counter Everywhere?

Getting government out of the way would protect women and employers alike.


A package of birth control pills.
Bryancalabro / Wikipedia

As of last Friday, January 1, women in Oregon can skip the doctor's visit that all other states require before they're allowed to purchase birth control pills. Henceforth, pharmacists in the state can issue prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives themselves.

The change moves the state closer to the over-the-counter scheme that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed in 2012. It doesn't quite go all the way, though, since technically the pills remain regulated as prescription meds.

A better solution would be to allow their sale to anyone, anywhere, without requiring a prescription at all—something Sen. Cory Gardner (R–Colo.) and a number of other Republicans proposed last year.

As my colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown has explained, getting rid of the prescription requirement would increase women's freedom to make choices for themselves. Not everyone can afford to take time off work and pay the price of a doctor's visit just to obtain a permission slip to use a drug that's totally legal and widely regarded as safe. And while Obamacare requires contraception to be covered at no cost to the patient, there will always be some people without insurance at a given moment. Brown writes:

What about undocumented women? Or those between jobs and temporarily uninsured? … 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. 

What's more, when it comes to a medication's effectiveness, studies show that convenience matters. If someone can run out to the drug store at whatever time of day is best for her, she's less likely to miss doses. "Being able to easily get the pill when you need it makes a difference," Dr. Dan Grossman of the University of California, San Francisco, told Yahoo! News in 2012.

Beyond the practical policy advantages of allowing women to buy birth control over the counter, such a change would also have positive ramifications for employers and insurance providers who have moral objections to offering contraception coverage.

One of the hottest-burning controversies over the last few years has been around whether religious business owners can be made by the Department of Health and Human Services to pay for no-cost contraception for their workers. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that in the case of closely held, family-run companies like Hobby Lobby, the answer is no. In 2016, the Court is expected to decide whether the same goes for religious nonprofits such as schools, hospitals, and charities.

But this is only an issue because contraceptives are treated as controlled substances—things that women can't just walk into any drug store and plunk down a few dollars to get. If many types of birth control were available at many different price points, and no health insurance were needed to make their purchase possible, the government's purported "compelling interest" in ensuring people have access to family planning services would be met. Obamacare's contraception mandate would therefore be unnecessary—and employers with conscience objections, religious or not, would be off the hook.

What if an administration wanted to go further and ensure women could get those services for free? It's actually not clear to me why birth control should be available at no cost—after all, humans would die without food, yet we don't think the government is "compelled" to pay everyone's grocery bill.

Still, even if you think contraceptives are for some reason a special case, the government could always offer subsidies directly to the purchaser. There's absolutely no reason employers or insurers would need to be involved in the transaction.

One last point: You don't have to agree with the employers who view birth control as morally problematic in order to oppose government violations of those employers' conscience rights. Nor, by the way, do you have to agree with the view of birth control as an unadulterated good in order to oppose government restrictions on the lives of those people who choose to use it.

Whether you're mostly concerned about empowering women or stopping infringements on religious liberty, the conclusion is the same: It's time to get the requirement for a prescription out of the birth control equation.

NEXT: NFL Should Permit Players to Use Medical Marijuana, Ex-Players Say

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  1. Pharmacists Can Now Prescribe Birth Control in Oregon. Why Not Make It Over-the-Counter Everywhere?

    Personally, I think everything should be over the counter everywhere. But I'm kind of a right-wing prick like that.


      1. Shit, just give me ten 10 mg of hydrocodone a month and I would be happy as a clam!

        1. As a clam you'd probably be happy w much less.

    2. As someone who hasn't been to the doctor for an Rx in several years, all I can say is God Bless India and God Bless Algore and his Internet.

    3. Yay!

      I've noticed a trend recently with reason readers coming out for real health care freedom.

      It would be nice if reason would get on board someday.

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      Clik This Link inYour Browser....

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  2. If we had over-the-counter birth control and artificial wombs (which are starting to seem like a practical future reality with the recent development of womb transplants this year), there would be no more reason for abortions -- the only people who would be pregnant are the people who *want* to be pregnant. This is exactly the right step for actual reproductive freedom, and I hope it leads to an elimination of our modern-day version of exposure of infants.

    1. I don't see what OTC birth control has to do with that; the artificial wombs would appear to be infinitely more relevant. But you forget there are other reasons to terminate a pregnancy, e.g., the belief that it is immoral to reproduce.

      1. But you forget there are other reasons to terminate a pregnancy, e.g., the belief that it is immoral to reproduce.

        Or in our super-science future, the doctor does a test and tells you you're carrying the next Hitler Hillary.

        1. Meh, there would be a greater satisfaction in killing it after it demonstrates political ambitions.

          1. But by that time you've lost control of it!

        2. Or in our super-science future, the doctor does a test and tells you you're carrying the next Hitler HillaryNikki.


      2. But you forget there are other reasons to terminate a pregnancy, e.g., the belief that it is immoral to reproduce.

        Then why did you get laid?

        1. What does getting laid have to do with reproduction? We've fixed that problem, just like you can now eat plenty of sugary sweets and not get cavities.

          1. We've fixed that problem

            Obviously not.

          2. Then why the hell am I paying so much in orphan dentistry costs?

            1. Why do your orphans still have any teeth? Those little bastards hurt when they snap at you!

        2. Or, why didn't you sterilize yourself, already?

      3. But you forget there are other reasons to terminate a pregnancy, e.g., the belief that it is immoral to reproduce.

        I thought we all agreed that we don't have to worry about Cytotoxic reproducing. Oh, you mean immoral for everyone.

    2. And lazy people. You'd be surprised how many people are too lazy to secure effective contraception.

      1. Failed man trap attempts are another reason for abortion.

  3. Pharmacists Can Now Prescribe Birth Control in Oregon. Why Not Make It Over-the-Counter Everywhere?

    Because that would cut into the physician gateway that is the prescription and deny a powerful special interest their cut of the pie.

    The arguments re: convenience and morality are spot on, but good arguments rarely have anything to do with why state institutions are as they are.

    1. ^ This

  4. I'm sure planned parenthood supports this. Oh, wait, they don't.

    1. Cuts into the spare-parts business.

  5. Wouldn't matter. The current administration would still want the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for it. FYTW

  6. I think we know why the feminists oppose this. Right now, insurance is required to cover the cost of birth control. For middle class women, that effectively means they're free. If they were to go OTC, that would mean they'd no longer be covered by insurance and middle class women would have to pay for their own birth control. And, at the end of the day, feminism is pretty much all about the interests of unattractive middle class women. So, sure, OTC might help out a few of the wrong kind of woman, but screw them.

    1. There are plenty of feminists who are in favor of making birth control OTC. And there's nothing "effectively free" about needing to go for a doctor visit, even for middle-class women with insurance.

      1. Let's see...Gardner's bill is opposed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW. Yup, real feminist groundswell of support there.

    2. Feminists DID support this years ago before the 'wrong people' started supporting it. You can look back to ~2008 with them rallying against the current prescription model.

      Principals, not principles.

  7. "A better solution would be to allow their sale to anyone, anywhere, without requiring a prescription at all?something Sen. Cory Gardner (R?Colo.) and a number of other Republicans proposed last year."

    That can't be, Salon swore to me that every Republican wanted mandatory intravaginal chastity belts for every female in the country. What is this personal freedom crap?

    1. I remember when Gardner ran on that in 2014. All the progtard media outlets lost their minds and, rather than conceding that its a good idea, either said it was a trick or voxplained why it somehow would lead to less access or something.

  8. So my testosterone injections are pretty tightly controlled. And of course, I can actually go to jail for "anabolic steroids" (which are just different chemicals to produce or enhance testosterone levels). But with this, women can get all the estrogen and progestogen they want, whenever they want.
    Male hormones: Dangerous and bad.
    Female hormones: helpful and good.

    Got it.

    (Of course I am somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But still this goes out to every feminist who thinks that bc pills are the same as ED meds for men.)

    1. Damn well said. I was going to say the exact same thing. And your post was here when I refreshed.

  9. Women are not intelligent enough to take birth control without a doctor's permission.

    1. Honey, let me progsplain the situation...

    2. They all need to get back to the kitchen and bake the menfolk a pie!

  10. with all the talk of war on women and the evil republicans who want to deny women access to birth control, it's important to recognize that the only people in this country who can actually deny such access are doctors and pharmacists, who routinely do so, usually ad a means of getting women to go to the doctor more regularly.

    But it's for their own good and ordered by Top Men, so it's okay

    1. Progressives are obedient, little bitches.

      1. What are you imagining the progressive position on this issue to be?

        1. Well progressives did not like the proposal from above regarding Gardner.

          Hey Tony, my girlfriend and I can't afford BC due to financial hardships. As part of the social contract you like to talk about, can you help us out with some money?

        2. Gardner's bill is opposed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW

          I don't know, maybe we'll have to take a guess.

          1. Well that's because this bill will achieve nothing to increase access to contraception but will achieve the chipping away at the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act while maybe tricking a few Colorado voters into thinking rightwing fanatic Cory Gardner is in favor of women's reproductive rights whereas he has formerly supported some of the most draconian anti-choice measures ever devised.

            1. Did you know if the right laws are passed by the wrong people the world will end?

              True story.

              1. It's just another in a very long list of reasons you should never trust a Republican, and why you should always read other reporting besides Reason's, which can't just print a story straight to save its fucking life.

                1. Yes, what I need in my news is more spin. There isn't enough already. Dammit people, somewhere out there someone has not heard the correct opinion!

        3. More licensing and regulation and supervision is good.

          1. Apparently licensing and regulation == greater and easier access to BC!! Wonder if the progs would go for this regarding abortion....

  11. I think it's good to keep in mind that the doctrine in Catholicism that forbids contraception also, and for the exact same reason, forbids male masturbation (and the reason is, literally, that every sperm is sacred). Anyone who takes seriously the claim that BC is "morally problematic" enough to get the state involved must also support the policing of his jerking off.

    1. As usual, completely missing the point. I doubt there is anyone here who feels the state should support policing masturbation, BC, or frankly any other consensual sexual activity. The point is that someone who does believe that these activities are wrong shouldn't be forced to subsidize it. I don't give a flying fuck what the Catholic church teaches regarding anything. Or the Mormons, or the Methodists, or the gods damned Hare Krishnas. But I do care if the state is forcing someone to pay for something they don't believe in.

      1. Yep as usual old Tony doesn't understand the difference between coercion and choice.

        1. Well, Tony is jerking it right now, to the thought of making a catholic buy BC.

          1. Now, now, you can't blame Tony for the fact that children just keep getting sexier.

      2. And my point is that religious opposition to BC is so retrograde and ridiculous in its historical justifications that it should play no role in public policy on the matter. Whether the state subsidizes BC should rest on a consideration of whether it's in the public's interest to do so. Lots of people practice pacifist spiritual beliefs, but they still have to pay taxes that go to funding the military. I can name 20 things my tax dollars pay for that I'm appalled by. I don't like carving out a specific policy exemption that hurts people just because the reasoning behind the objection is especially nonsensical.

        1. I can name 20 things my tax dollars pay for that I'm appalled by

          Please, do.

        2. What does what you posted have to do with wanting to force other people to provide BC for their employees? That isn't tax dollars

          Why do you want to force your views on others to violate their religious beliefs? Where is it a right that person A has to provide person B this stuff?

          Please list the 20 things.

          1. Religious liberty should not extend to the harming of other people. I get that you have that typical sort of libertarian ham-fisted attitude about how taxing and spending are always evil (except when you need something). But setting that childish bullshit aside, if the system is set up in such a way that people rely on employers for access to healthcare, allowing employers to get exemptions from providing that access for no other reason than "because magical sky grandpa says so" starts us on a bit of slippery slope. I don't see what's so special about religious beliefs that we can't extend the logic of exemption-seeking to political beliefs. And if anyone can opt out of paying for shit they don't like at any time, we won't have a society anymore.

            1. How are other people being harmed here? FYI not wanting to provide BC as part of a health plan is not the same as denying or banning you from obtaining on your own.

              You do realize the employers dont have to provide healthcare options at all and just pay the penalty. How do you feel about this? Would this alternative be preferable?

              Again what does taxing have to do with forcing others to violate their religious beliefs? I am not sure you understand rights. What is the slippery slope here?

              1. I'm for a universal state-run system so that we avoid all these complications, among other reasons.

                1. So you support government having a monopoly on healthcare?

            2. So Tony if you want to have sex with me and i say no...are you being harmed?

              1. There's an interesting philosophical debate in that question, imo.

            3. "And if anyone can opt out of paying for shit they don't like at any time, we won't have a society anymore."

              This sounds totalitarian and authoritarian....yikes

              1. totalitarian and authoritarian
                Yep, that's your standard proggie.

        3. Whether the state subsidizes BC should rest on a consideration of whether it's in the public's interest to do so.

          No, it shouldn't.

        4. There is no tangible opposition to the availability of birth control. Most of us just don't want to pay for other people's shit. Doesn't really matter what that shit may be. Hell, you can cut your own nuts off for all I care. Just don't bring me the bill.

        5. So, basically, what you're saying is that you get off forcing your morality onto other people. Glad we cleared that one up.

      3. The point is that someone who does believe that these activities are wrong shouldn't be forced to subsidize it.

        Not even that. Nobody should have to subsidize anyone else's lifestyle or hobbies. Period. Full. Stop.

        1. Accessing important medical care is a lifestyle or hobby?

          1. No, unprotected vaginal sex is a lifestyle or hobby.

            1. Who wants government to subsidize that?

              1. Who is denying care here?

              2. If their gonna subsidize anything, I think that's the best idea I've ever heard.

              3. I'm sure you will find a reason Tony.

          2. It isn't important medical care as clearly people have gone with out it for centuries. Who is denying them this care? Not wanting to be forced to give it someone else is not the same as taking it from them.

  12. Tony since you support forcing others to provide BC, will you walk the walk and provide money for me so my GF and i can use BC? Wouldn't want another libertarian running around seeing how you hate people with different political views..yikes!!!

    1. Sure--I wouldn't want someone so ignorant that he's incapable of understanding the difference between public spending and charity polluting the world with his offspring.

      1. Ok. Give me your bank account info to make a transfer or set up a paypal.

      2. What does public spending have to do with making BC over the counter and without a prescription?

      3. the difference between public spending and charity

        One is the evil manipulation of poor minorities without access to better sources of information by malicious organizations run by the worst sort of corrupt, morally bankrupt individuals who want to impose their moral views on the country through deceptive manipulation of the public discourse.

        And the other is charity.

        1. I must congratulate you on one of the more cleverly shrouded ways of saying "black people are lazy, ignorant sheep" I've ever read.

          1. It is amazing how you can read your own thoughts into other people's words so often. And by "amazing", I mean "predictable".

            1. "Without access to better sources of information" and "manipulation of the public discourse" are particularly impressive, really. It finally explains how those ignorant lazy blacks are so universally duped into voting against their own best interests. Still fails to explain why they are particularly vulnerable to it, while poor white rednecks manage to find their way to good, pure nondeceptive small-governmentism.

              1. Parody, motherfucker, do you speak it?

              2. So much imputed motive. You poor, poor man. With that much hateful bigotry in my head, I too would be such a miserable cretin.

              3. But blacks ARE routinely, if not universally, duped into voting against their own best interest.
                It was Tony, who added that the blacks were ignorant and lazy.
                Well informed, hard working people can be led astray by "malicious organizations run by the worst sort of corrupt, morally bankrupt individuals who want to impose their moral views on the country through deceptive manipulation of the public discourse".
                To Tony, those people are ignorant and lazy.
                Par for the proggie course.

          2. Why did you jump to this conclusion I wonder?

      4. May I introduce you to a mirror?

      5. Didn't most of the "public spending" displace charity.
        Can't have people deciding, for themselves, who to help, can we?
        They might help the wrong kind, or not help the right kind.
        Oh, wait, "right and wrong" are not consistent in the prog dictionary.
        Proggies are so confusing.

  13. Tony do you support eugenics?

    1. Of course not, that would be "retrograde". He supports the enlightened management of reproduction by intelligent, forward-thinking individuals.

      You know, something completely different.

      1. Yo Tone can you tell us who would be the enlightened forward thinking individuals?

    2. Does Eugene support tonics?

      1. Only when they're augmented by generous portions of gin.

  14. Tony does it bother you that I will go home and have fun today without your permission?

  15. Tony how should we set up this transaction...i need about 3K in 2016. Sandra Fluke levels.

    1. I already help pay for thousands of benefits you receive every breathing minute of your life. There's a reason people single out contraception among all the things governments pay for or mandate, and that reason is total stupidity.

      1. I already help pay for thousands of benefits

        Jesus you set up some tough challenges for yourself. I was only looking for you to fill in the 20 you don't like above. But here you just have to up the ante. I expect the full list on my desk by 9AM tomorrow.

      2. Lol wut?

        I havent been to a doctor in 12 years. Also werent you advocating singlepayer above as a need? Thus how are you paying thousands

        Why cant people buy their own bc as they need? With their own money

        And walk the walk, pay up mothafucka

        1. Just as soon as you start paying for your own security force to defend your alleged property rights, your own arbiters to settle any suits, your own roads and sidewalks, your own education, etc.

          1. Did all those

            1. If you never avail yourself of public goods then it's impossible for you to be on the internet right now, so stop lying.

              1. Um what? Im pretty sure i pay a phone and cable bill. I thought the talking point was internet needs to be free and a public good while complaining about how much is paid for cable?

                What does using public goods have to do with paying for those things above?

                1. Do you supply your own electricity? Did you build the infrastructure the cable company uses?

                  1. Not only did we, but we are still paying for the upkeep.
                    You see, Tony, real businesses aren't just there to provide jobs but to continue throughout the time they are able to produce enough of what people want/need for the business to survive.
                    Proggies are so silly when it comes to describing what a business does.

          2. Fyi forcing employers to provide against their will has nothing to do with paying taxes

            Lawd o lawd you are dumb

            1. I'm for a single-payer system. I think we should decouple employment with access to basic needs and benefits as much as possible. It's good for labor mobility, if nothing else.

              It wasn't progressives who dreamed up the employer-provided shit system, it was people who jerked off to small government like you.

              1. Who would that be? The aca was all dems by the way.

                Single payer...long wait times, insanely inexpensive and a gov monopoly. Yay?

                Health insurance doesnt equal actual care you silly goose!

              2. Single payer requires rationing of care.

                Vermont scrapped it due to exorbirant costs


                1. I see you've efficiently handled this complex political subject with a handful of mindless talking points. Well done.

                  1. I see you've efficiently handled this complex political subject with a handful of mindless talking points. Well done.

                    Pot, meet kettle.

                  2. What complex subject? Single payer failed in vermont due to costs......long wait times and rationing are well documented. Also the VA sucks. Yet you want it on a large scale.

                    I think deep down you want it so you can hammer on peoples life style choices.

                    Thanks fer yer input

              3. While I am mainly a lurker in the comment section and understand that Tony lacks the cognitive abilities to think past anything then "Dems=Good all else bad."

                It is absolutely untrue that the system of employer based health insurance coverage was the idea of "small government" types. It was developed as a way to bypass wage controls placed on business during WWII which price controls were developed by those small minded types FDR liked.

                So to sum up Tony:
                -Lie - Check
                -Lack of Understanding of Economics - Check
                -Doesn't know the history of what he is talking about - Check
                -Projection of an idea of his party to another - Check

                1. Yea i thought he might have been referring to the employee healthcare and not the aca mandate for bc. Would be interested to hear tony spin that as small gov

                  1. I think Tony's modus operandi is to simply redefine everything bad as a "small government" idea. War in Iraq? Small government. War on Drugs? Small government. NSA? Small government.

              4. The employer provided shit system was created because of one of your heroes, FDR, or maybe his demoncrap successor, putting a wage freeze on business, so that they had to offer benefits to attract the best employees.

                Who is this mystical "single payer" anyway? I don't think Warren Buffett combined with Bill Gates - oh oh, that's not "single" - could afford it for long.
                If you want to say "government", remember, "government" has no money of its own, only what they can force others to give to them.

      3. What are these benefits im receiving? Are you adverse to paying taxes to help society as it sounds like you are. But yet want others to...

      4. That is an impressive contribution from your welfare check. But I am afraid more is required.

  16. "And if anyone can opt out of paying for shit they don't like at any time, we won't have a society anymore."- Tony

    This sounds totalitarian and authoritarian....yikes. Making sure EVERYONE one reads this. I must compel you by force to buy stuff you don't like otherwise there wouldn't be society!!

    1. Given that people have to get along with millions of others they won't always agree with, that's just part of living in a society. The real problem is that if people are given this option, they will opt out paying for stuff they actually do support. Game theory 101.

      1. Uh why do you want to force this on people? Who gets to decide these things? What if it is republicans will you be singing the same tune?

      2. Why arent people able to purchase their own bc? I purchase my own food and that is needed every day

      3. Tony you do realize employers dont have to offer plans at all? Then what?

        1. How about I subsidize whatever medication you aren't on but need to be?

          1. Ok pay up man. Bank account or paypal

            Walk the walk

            1. I'm also waiting for the receipt for his Gifts to the United States Treasury. I'm sure his scanner is just temporarily out of order.

      4. Game theory 101

        Ooh, I missed this. This is the part where Tony pretends to understand concepts more difficult than "rich people have lots of money". That lasts maybe 3 posts, before Tony links to some "smart person" who agrees with him. Tony is not smart enough to know what's right, but somehow he can determine who is right despite having no way to verify that fact.

        1. Hey Tony, why don't you tell me about the "game theory" interpretation of paying people money to not work, while saying that people who do work are not "paying their fair share"? Run the numbers on that one for me, would you, sport?

      5. WOW
        People wanting shit, for free?
        There should be a political party created to capitalize on that.
        All they would need is 50%+1.

  17. Birth control OTC in Oregon, but I need to take a stockpile of pseudoephedrine-containing meds each trip b/c not available without a prescription.

  18. Tony do you think blacks are lazy? Since that is what you alluded to above

  19. The fact that RU486 is already available OTC, yet regular BC is not, is ironic to the core. The fact that Planned Parenthood supported the former, yet does not the latter shows their hypocrisy.

    "This is an important step forward to expand access to emergency contraception and for preventing unintended pregnancy," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. "While we fully support this expansion of access to birth control, we continue to believe that the administration should lift all unnecessary restrictions to emergency contraception."

    WaPo article

  20. "Black people are lazy, ignorant sheep" - tony

    Actual quote by him yikes.

    The tolerant and loving left...

    1. Now, now, that's what he thinks I think. The fact that everything anyone says gets translated to that in his mind is entirely coincidental.

  21. Anthony what is your tax return like? How much did ya pay? Need to vet yur claims

  22. Tony i need 3k worth of birth control. Stop being a greedy little biatch and honor your social contract

  23. Yea, those women who are susceptible to blood clots? Fuck 'em. This is about getting my pills!

    1. Not sure i understand your comment here.

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