November 29, 2012 — USA Today on Wednesday published an opinion piece and editorial that offer opposing views on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' recent recommendation that oral contraceptives be sold without a prescription to improve access and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
~ James Breeden, USA Today: Breeden, ACOG's president, argues that the benefits of providing oral contraceptives without a prescription outweigh the risks, adding that "the data clearly show that oral contraceptives are safe for the majority of women." He notes that while oral contraceptives slightly raise the risk of blood clots, pregnancy carries a much greater risk of blood clots. Further, studies have found that women are able to screen themselves for health risks when deciding whether to purchase birth control pills. Making oral contraceptives available without a prescription "will improve access and help prevent unintended pregnancies," Breeden writes, concluding that women "should no longer have to face burdensome hurdles to obtain this safe and effective contraceptive" (Breeden, USA Today, 11/28).
~ USA Today: While ACOG is medically qualified to assess whether oral contraceptives should be available without a prescription, "several thorny issues" complicate the recommendation, including affordability, side effects, teens' access to the drugs and the effect on other preventive health services, the editorial states. For example, women who only visit a health care provider to obtain birth control "might forgo health care until they get sick," according to the editorial. "The potential downsides of over-the-counter sales suggest that there are better avenues to broader access," such as making it easier for women to obtain refills without visiting a doctor or by offering age-restricted behind-the-counter sales, the editorial argues (USA Today, 11/28).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership