Wisconsin Public Radio

FDA Approves Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

Wisconsin health officials praise the decision, say it will reduce barriers to accessing contraception.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jul 14th, 2023 01:11 pm
CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=519787

Oral contraceptives. CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=519787

Wisconsinites will have access to the country’s first non prescription birth control pill in stores after the U.S. Food and Drug administration on Thursday approved the oral contraceptive Opill.

Health officials in the state and across the country widely praised the decision, saying it will reduce barriers in access to contraception.

Opill is a progestin-only birth control pill for women to prevent pregnancy. Most other oral contraceptives also include the hormone estrogen, NPR reports.

For years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has advocated for expanding over-the-counter access to hormonal contraception without age restrictions.

The group has long argued its benefits will help people “begin using contraception when they are ready,” create “a bridge between clinician-supported contraception plans” and “overcome existing financial, societal and personal barriers.”

But the FDA’s decision angered some like Anna DeMeuse, communications director of the anti-abortion group Pro-Life Wisconsin. She called it “horrendous,” saying the group opposes all forms of artificial contraception.

She said Pro-Life Wisconsin advocates for methods like natural fertility awareness to achieve or postpone pregnancy or identify hormonal imbalances in a woman’s cycle.

“This is lazy medicine. Hormonal birth control does not fix something that’s broken, it breaks something that functions perfectly and is an integral part of being a woman,” she said.

The group also argued against a Wisconsin Assembly bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills.

The FDA decision arrived less than a week after a Dane County Circuit judge allowed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s pre-Civil War abortion ban to proceed, sending it one step closer to reaching the state Supreme Court.

DeMeuse anticipates the fight over abortion will continue in Wisconsin.

“That’s why Pro-Life Wisconsin is determined to fight now more than ever to ensure that abortion remains illegal here in Wisconsin and that every child is protected and every mother is fought for to receive the best actual health care for both mom and baby,” DeMeuse said.

Health officials, reproductive care advocates say FDA decision will be ‘transformational’

Dr. Ben Weston is the chief health policy adviser for Milwaukee County and an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He said large portions of the state face challenges obtaining birth control because of a lack of access to care and affordability.

“This means you don’t need to go see a doctor, you don’t need to see a nurse practitioner. You can just get this medicine at a grocery store, at a drugstore or maybe even at a convenience store,” Weston said.

Weston said it’s critical people make their own reproductive health decisions and avoid unwanted pregnancies. He added Opill, when taken correctly, is 93 percent effective.

“I think it’s more critical now than ever because of that Supreme Court decision,” he said.

More than three-quarters of women ages 18-49 support making birth control pills available without a doctor’s prescription, according to a 2022 survey from KFF, formerly the Kaiser Family Foundation. The primary reason was convenience, the survey found.

Alisa Von Hagel is a professor of political science and gender studies program coordinator in the University of Wisconsin-Superior Department of Social Inquiry. She called the FDA’s decision a “game-changer,” especially given restrictions on abortion access.

“This is going to be huge for millions of women across the country,” she said.

Von Hagel noted the FDA’s approval of Opill comes six decades after birth control pills were introduced in the U.S. She said she believes the decision will open the door for other contraceptive birth control pills, saying another company with a pill that combines progesterone and estrogen to the FDA for approval.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO Tanya Atkinson said the decision allows for “multiple points of access” to care and will be “transformational.”

“It is absolutely critical that the people of Wisconsin have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health care,” she said. “And in this case, decreasing barriers to access to contraception is one piece of that.”

Perrigo, the company that made the daily oral contraceptive Opill, said at a news briefing Thursday that affordability is a priority. The retail price will be announced in the coming months, NPR reported.

Opill is expected to be available without a prescription in early 2024.

Listen to the WPR report here

The FDA has approved an over-the-counter birth control pill. Here’s what it could mean for Wisconsin was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio

One thought on “FDA Approves Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill”

  1. julia o'connor says:

    Prolife Wisconsin hates women – simple as that

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