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Why OTC birth control is a terrible idea

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Woman with birth control pills (Shutterstock)

In an effort to make birth control more accessible, lawmakers in Oregon and California are working on legislation that would allow women to get prescriptions for the pill from pharmacists instead of their gynecologists. The idea behind the proposal is that women wouldn’t have to go through any hassles or pay the extra costs necessary to visit their doctor for a simple prescription.

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The proposals makes perfect sense since pharmacists would be able to look into the medical history and health condition of any woman looking to get the pill before writing prescriptions. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, private insurance would then pay for the contraception, so women in can easily take the necessary measures to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Currently, the U.S. spends a whopping $11 billion a year on unintended pregnancies, and about one half of all pregnancies in the country are unintended.

But there’s an interesting contradictory effort by Republicans in Congress that everyone should be warned about. Even though conservative Republicans have a long held reputation of being anti-birth control, last May right-wing senators introduced a bill that would expedite the process in which manufacturers behind contraceptives apply to the FDA for over-the-counter approval.

Think about that for a second – why would family values Republicans who fought long and hard to prevent religious employers from providing birth control coverage all of a sudden want to make the pill readily available over the counter? Turns out that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t cover the costs OTC contraception. Even though the pill would be easily available, the costs would prevent women in lower socioeconomic statuses form accessing it.

As Democratic Senator Patty Murray said, “If something is too expensive, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to get. It might as well be on the moon.”

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Private insurance doesn’t like covering the costs of anything, but they love charging an arm and a leg for mediocre, half-ass health insurance. At the same Republicans love campaign donations, and if health insurance companies have an incentive to make sure pills are available over the counter so they don’t have to pay for it, there’s no question that they’ll bribe any politician necessary to make it happen.

Aside from the issue of money, it’s pretty ridiculous to make it seem as though putting artificial hormones in women’s bodies is harmless and poses no risk. I’ll be the first to defend birth control as long as women see a healthcare professional before taking it, which is why having pharmacists prescribe the pill is a great idea.

However, as someone who has tried five different types of pills in addition to the Nuva Ring, I can attest to the horrific side effects some women face. I experienced a host of issues including rapid weight gain, serious suicidal thoughts, and constant emotional meltdowns over non-issues. Women who smoke also have an increased risk of blood clots when talking birth control. That’s not to say that every woman will have the same experience, but many women do, and it’s important that they consult with a professional before taking oral contraceptives.

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