Doctors urge FDA to approve over-the-counter access to birth control

The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest medical group, is calling on the FDA to make birth control available without a prescription as states prepare for the potential end of federally protected abortion rights.

"Providing patients with OTC access to the birth control pill is an easy call from a public health perspective as the health risks of pregnancy vastly outweigh those of oral contraceptive use," said AMA Board Member Dr. David H. Aizuss. "Access is one of the most cited reasons why patients do not use oral contraceptives, use them inconsistently, or discontinue use. Expanding OTC access would make it easier for patients to properly use oral contraceptives, leading to fewer unplanned pregnancies."

The association approved the policy at its annual meeting and said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the authority to convert oral contraceptives from prescription-only to over-the-counter — with no age restrictions. Birth control manufacturers would have to ask the FDA for the change as well.

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The push for expanded birth control access comes as the country waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi abortion case that could upend abortion rights in more than half the states.

Dr. Sophia Yen, CEO and co-founder of Pandia Health, holds a one-months prescription of birth control pills at the health startup's office in Palo Alto, Calif. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Pandia offers online health consultations with doctors as well as

A one-months prescription of birth control pills (Photo by Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

A leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico in early May shows a majority of justices could be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that makes abortion a constitutional right. If they do, 13 states have trigger laws that immediately ban abortion, and 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights.

It also leaves health care providers with questions over whether medical abortion – or abortion pills – will be a viable loophole to state laws. In December 2021, the FDA made permanent a rule that allows patients to consult with prescribers through telehealth and receive abortion pills. 

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Although federal law trumps state law, abortion law experts say it’s still unclear whether states will be able to restrict the pills in a post-Roe America

Polls show that a large majority of Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy. 

Gallup conducted a poll last June that revealed 48% of Americans want abortion legal with limits and another 32% said it should be completely legal, while 19% believe it should be illegal. 

The Supreme Court is expected to release its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Tuesday, June 21, or Thursday, June 23.