Over-the-counter birth control would be a game changer | Opinion

The expected legalization of Opill is a step toward bringing the United States up to international standards

A close up of a packet of birth control pills (Getty Images).

A close up of a packet of birth control pills (Getty Images).

By Sonali Kolhatkar

Coming amid a widespread assault on reproductive health care, this could be a game-changer.

Margery Gass, an advisory committee member and an emerita professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati, told The Washington Post: “I think this represents a landmark in our history of women’s health.”

The expected legalization of Opill is a step toward bringing the United States up to international standards — currently such pills are available in more than 100 countries worldwide. It’s also great news for women’s economic independence.

By making the purchase of a contraceptive pill as easy and affordable as a trip to the drug store, birth control can become more accessible to those who are uninsured or underinsured, who can’t get an OB-GYN appointment, or who live in areas where Republican officials have all but eliminated reproductive health clinics.

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Many studies show the impact of birth control on women’s livelihoods. A report by Planned Parenthood concluded: “Being able to get the pill before age 21 has been found to be the most influential factor in enabling women already in college to stay in college.”

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reviewed the available evidence and found that prescription birth control pills have helped women stay out of poverty, attend college and graduate in higher numbers, and earn more at work.

It’s no wonder that a massive majority of women surveyed were in favor of an over-the-counter pill being available in the U.S. — 77 percent of women aged 18 to 49 said as much in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey last fall.

Legalizing an over-the-counter contraceptive pill won’t undo the ongoing GOP assault on reproductive freedom, of course. But it could be a vital lifeline with that assault accelerating as Republicans court the support of fanatical anti-abortion groups.

How fanatical are they?

One organization peddling flat-out lies in order to pave the way for ending access to contraception is Pulse Life Advocates. The group’s website makes claims that are so preposterous, they veer on comical — such as “contraception increases likelihood of divorce” and “contraception kills babies.”

These same zealots want the GOP to attack access to prescription birth control pills, as well as Plan B, the “morning-after” pill. The popularity of such pills offers little political protection — a majority of Americans have continued to support access to abortion even as Republican politicians have eroded it.

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If the anti-abortionists were truly interested in protecting fetal cells, contraceptive pills would help ensure such cells were not generated in the first place.

But of course, the ultimate agenda — usually couched in faux concern for women’s health — is to control women. Indeed, Pulse Life Advocates sees the birth control pill as akin to couples saying, “We want the physical pleasure of sex, but we want control.”

Um, yes. Wanting control over one’s body is a fundamental tenet of democracy. The anti-abortionists and their antiquated views on birth control represent medievalism, not modernity.

Last year, Mother Jones magazine quoted an anti-abortion activist who called birth control “unbiblical and harmful to women’s bodies.” By the numbers, pregnancy is far more harmful to women’s bodies, education, careers, wages, and overall well-being than abortion or contraception.

For those who choose to have children in spite of the disadvantages — people like me — the risks are worth the rewards. But the critical factor is choice.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. This commentary was produced by the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute. It was first published by the Daily Montanan, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. 

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.