Debate: Should birth control be available without a prescription?


Round 1

Blue: While having over-the-counter (OTC) birth control sounds good in theory, there are a lot of complicated aspects involved. For example, birth control pills can have some pretty bad side effects or can be dangerous when mixed with certain other drug combinations. If the pills were accessible without a doctor’s advice and supervision, women might find themselves accidentally ingesting two meds that should never be ingested together. And it’s not like a drug label can carry the warning for every possible condition or med combination that will go wrong. A doctor is the best place to go for that sort of information, so it’s just better to keep the access there. Especially since making the pills OTC would mean more women would use that option instead of more effective ones. This might lead to more unwanted pregnancies due to overconfidence in their birth control choice. More accessible birth control options would be great, but OTC birth control is not the way to do it.

Red: The concern for consumer safety is obviously paramount in almost any discussion about over-the-counter medicine. With that said, birth control in modern times is incredibly common. Modern society is promoting more and more planning before deciding to have children and that is a good thing. Having to go to a doctor for birth control prescriptions is only adding a barrier to safe sex. Not to mention, with the current healthcare system not everyone can afford to go to a doctor and get a prescription for something that’s not life critical or debilitating like an infection. As far as health concerns go, there’s obviously a concern when it comes to something as potentially dangerous to an individual as hormone-based drugs. However, this could be mitigated by ID checks requiring the consumer to be 18 years old. This is standard for most potentially dangerous medication.

Round 2

Red: To comment further on safety, the idea that birth control should be prescription only because it may interfere with other medications is not really practical. Many medications, or even foods, can interfere with each other. For example, many medications prohibit the consumption of grapefruit while on the regimen. This is because enzymes in grapefruit change how your liver metabolizes substances. Should we make grapefruit prescription only? Most drugs that birth control would interfere with are prescription already. The doctor would ask if the patient is on birth control before prescribing the potentially dangerous second drug. As medicine becomes more and more integral to more people’s day-to-day life, a new responsibility to be aware of what drugs you take will become more important. I think the possibility of more consumer error shouldn’t limit access to birth control. Especially not when young adults can barely afford to pay rent, student loans and eat. The fact of the matter is that the modern era does not facilitate young parents well. I think the best way to have a happier generation is to make it as easy as possible to not have kids early on.

Blue: Yes, it’s super important for people to be able to control when they have kids because our economy and social expectations are harsh on parents who aren’t in the right social sphere or economic bracket. And, yes, birth control should be cheap to help further that goal. However, making birth control pills OTC might not actually make them cheaper. It usually takes a lot of time and money for drug companies to make a prescription med into an over-the-counter one, so they may be reluctant to do so, even if it’s by law. This may lead to a smaller variety of pills to choose from. But it’s far more likely that they’d just raise the prices—and knowing the state of pharmaceutical corporations’ ethics, quite possibly through the roof—so that they can presumably cover costs. Since OTC meds aren’t typically covered by insurance, this means that women would have to pay a lot more to have access to birth control. It’s already been seen with things like Plan B, whose out-of-pocket costs were nearly five times the amount after becoming OTC. Yes, birth control might technically be more accessible, but what would be the price?