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Dear FDA… Approve Over-the-Counter Birth Control, Now

December 14, 2022

Anti-abortion groups were certainly jubilant when the Supreme Court announced in Dobbs that it was overturning Roe. But they were far from satisfied, and their attack on our most sacred human rights is far from over. The end of our constitutional right to abortion has prompted many to focus on the ongoing, now intensifying, “proxy fight” to end our right to contraception.

Surely, removing access to contraceptives appears a contradictory goal. As Reveal asks, “doesn’t preventing unwanted pregnancies also prevent abortions?” The illogic might be apparent to those who are pro-choice, but the way that question is framed overlooks the fact that many anti-abortion groups (falsely) claim that hormonal contraceptives like IUDs and the pill can actually cause abortions. It also overlooks the fact that the fight over abortion is not only over abortion, but is over an idea that sex should only be had for purposes of procreation, thus restricting sexual freedom for all. Importantly, regardless of whether removing access to contraceptives is contradictory to anti-choice activists’ mission, increasing obstacles to obtaining IUDs and the pill is a part of their agenda.

In recent months, we have already seen contraceptives become a hot-button issue in state elections. California and Michigan liberalized access in the midterms; a smattering of states, including Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin, tried to restrict it. Amidst this existing schema, where the protection of our human rights varies based on which state we are in, Rachel Logan calls for the Food and Drug Administration to take federal action by approving an over-the-counter (OTC) birth control pill. By approving an OTC pill, pro-choice advocates hope that the federal government’s regulation would involve mandate protections for oral contraceptives, “including affordable pricing, allowing health-care plans to cover the cost, and making the pill available to people of any age.”

OTC birth control would not resolve the devastating lack of reproductive justice across the United States, but it would certainly bring us closer to guaranteeing one of our fundamental human rights. Approving OTC birth control would be consistent with the demands of a nearly two-decade coalition-driven effort involving more than 100 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, research and advocacy groups, youth activists, health care providers, prominent medical and health professional associations, and regulatory experts. And it would most certainly be consistent with our demands at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation for sexual freedom to be promoted, celebrated, and accessible to all.

Women Youth

Photo of contraceptive methods

A photo of various contraceptive methods on top of a blue background. Methods featured include a diaphragm, birth control pills, an IUD, internal and external condoms and a Nuvaring. (Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition)

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