Connecting Washington's 'A+' record on women's health and over-the-counter birth control
Today's editorial encourages drugmakers and the Food and Drug Administration to explore the possibility of making birth control pills available to women without a prescription.
This position is informed by an American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee's recent opinion on the issue.
The various brands available now through prescription will not be accessible over the counter anytime soon without Food and Drug Administration approval. Many women cannot afford the cost of birth control or the doctor’s visit necessary to access the different methods sold on the market.
One consequence is that half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to the ACOG. That figure hasn’t changed in 20 years.
The cost to society and taxpayers is high. Here in Washington, for instance, Medicaid pays for more than 40 percent of births statewide. When children are born into poverty, they are at a higher risk for suffering health and developmental problems.
Washington is uniquely prepared to make this paradigm shift work.
In its first annual report card on reproductive health and rights, a policy organization called the Population Institute gave our state an "A+" grade — the highest in the country. The U.S. overall was given a grade of "C-". The institute's researchers evaluated Washington's women's policies based on four criteria: effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancies, affordability, prevention, and access to services (including abortions).
The state has long supported some of the most progressive policies on reproductive health issues, dating back to the state's decision to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling.
Earlier this year, legislators preserved the state's family planning budget, according to this Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest press release.
As noted in the ACOG opinion, a pilot program in Washington proved that a sample of women given birth control at trained pharmacies were more likely to take the pills consistently.
The issue that remains is cost.
In the grand scheme of things, there are places where such a policy might make a huge difference for low-income women, particularly states like Texas where family planning funding has been reduced or eliminated.
If pharmaceutical companies step up to push oral contraceptives onto store shelves and the FDA approves, Washington is well-positioned to lead the way and show the rest of the country how increasing access to birth control can save money in the long run and improve the lives of women and children.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics