Back in May, the Trump administration announced that it was considering a rule that would basically undo an Obama-era mandate requiring employers to provide insurance that covers contraception. The new rule would broaden exemptions and allow any and all employers to withhold contraception coverage by claiming that such coverage would violate “their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
While this rule would certainly set back women’s health care as well as affect nearly 55 million women who gained free contraception under Obamacare, writes Liss-Schultz, American women can take heart from the fact that the battle for birth control is now “moving from Washington to the states.”
“We are on the cusp of seeing another push, a more aggressive push at the state level to protect affordable access to contraception,” the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Andrea Miller, recently told the New York Times.
One particularly promising front is the coordinated drive to make birth control available over the counter. A coalition of reproductive rights groups has spent the last decade working to get the Food and Drug Administration to allow birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter, which would allow a woman to buy them as easily as she does her aspirin—without getting a prescription.
“Their ultimate goal has always remained the same: to get at least one contraceptive pill approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sale, and to get insurance companies to cover its cost,” says Liss-Schultz.
Initially, supporters of over-the-counter birth control pills were primarily physicians and pharmaceutical groups and detractors were mainly women’s health organizations who felt that the longterm effects of birth control were still unclear.
Over the years, a handful of studies by researchers who are part of the coalition have proven that oral contraceptives are exceptionally safe and highly effective and so, the critics have now come to support over-the-counter sales.