Where OB-GYNs stand on over the counter birth control [Letter]

September 24, 2014

A recent exchange within your opinion pages debated the benefit of over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives, with a letter to the editor ("Sun wrong on OTC birth control," Sept. 16) citing the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as being supportive of recent proposals from Congressional candidates across the country.

But there's a disclaimer to our support: while ACOG does believe that many oral contraceptives are safe and effective for over-the-counter use, and we would welcome this new level of access for some women, we strongly believe that this is not enough.

For one thing, OTC contraceptives would not include some of the most effective, long-term methods of contraceptives, like intrauterine devices — methods that have been demonstrated to lower the rate of unplanned births when used widely. And OTC contraceptives could indeed cost some women more. Under the Affordable Care Act, contraceptives are available to insured women with no copay; this would not be the case without a prescription.

It also should be noted that the Food and Drug Administration would have to approve contraceptives for OTC use, something it has yet to do; Congress does not have this authority.

Contraception plays a major role in preventive care and helps to improve the health of women and families. Because of this, America needs a comprehensive plan for enhanced birth control — not one-off proposals in the midst of a campaign.

Dr. John J. Jennings, Washington

The writer is president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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