The Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever over-the-counter birth control pill in the United States Thursday, a huge advancement in contraceptive accessibility amid an ever more restrictive abortion landscape.
“Approval of this progestin-only oral contraceptive pill provides an option for consumers to purchase oral contraceptive medicine without a prescription at drug stores, convenience stores and grocery stores, as well as online,” the agency said in a statement.
It also pointed out that “almost half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended” — a statistic the approval of over-the-counter Opill may improve.
Final approval seemed likely after an advisory panel unanimously recommended that the pill become available without a prescription in May.
Hearings earlier this spring were replete with questions about climbing rates of maternal mortality and the adverse outcomes associated with unintended pregnancy. But the abortion landscape, critical background to any conversation about accessibility of contraception, was all but absent.
States have continued to pass extremely restrictive bans, and over half of them are categorized as “restrictive,” “very restrictive” or “most restrictive” by the Guttmacher Institute. With many women living in states where abortion is all but inaccessible, the importance of the availability of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies skyrockets.
This type of pill was initially approved for prescription use back in 1973.