Sell the Pill Over the Counter

Oral contraceptives are some of the safest and most effective drugs on the market. Yet they remain irrationally difficult for many women to obtain, and not just those working at Catholic institutions. Most doctors prescribe the pill for one year, requiring women to receive full pelvic exams in order to re-up; on top of that, many health insurers dole out pills only one month at a time. These barriers can thwart consistent use, increasing the odds of unintended pregnancy—and abortion.

There’s a simple solution here: sell the pill over the counter. Oral contraceptives have long met most of the FDA’s over-the-counter criteria, and recent research has shown that annual Pap smears not only are superfluous, but often lead to false positives and expensive follow-up testing. Reserving the pill as a reward for a regular checkup with a gynecologist is no longer just condescending—it’s also medically unsound.

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Nicole Allan is an Atlantic senior associate editor.

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