How FDA approval of first over-the-counter birth control pill could impact Mississippi women

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 7:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Right now, American women and girls have to first go to a doctor for a prescription before getting access to birth control. But come 2024, you’ll be able to buy one brand of the pill on the same aisle as your allergy or headache medicine.

Jamie Bardwell co-founded the non-profit Converge. Their mission? Increasing access to quality sexual and reproductive health care. So, when she got the news alert that the FDA had approved an over-the-counter birth control pill, she said this.

“I thought, oh, my gosh, this is the big news,” said Converge co-founder and co-director Jamie Bardwell. “It’s big news. For Mississippi, it’s big news for women. It’s big news for families.”

It’s a shift that advocates like Bardwell had been pushing for for years.

“So many people in Mississippi are uninsured, and they might live in places where they don’t have a doctor they can go to. They don’t have a, you know, access to care,” added Bardwell. “And so having to spend hundreds of dollars to get a prescription for birth control is a huge barrier.”

There are plenty of unknowns like the cost that will be revealed by the maker of OPill in the coming months.

“We really, really want to make sure that health insurance companies will still cover it, even though it is over the counter. And that women don’t have to pay anything out of pocket.”

It’s not a combination birth control pill like many that are commonly prescribed. It’s instead progesterone only.

“The progesterone-only pill is extremely safe and effective, over 90% effective when used correctly, and has not been shown to, you know, increase risk for stroke,” noted Bardwell. “And so study after study has shown that women can self-screen for these possible risk factors.”

As for who will have access?

“The FDA approved it without any age restrictions,” she added. “And that goes back to the research that was done indicating that, you know, people of all ages of reproductive age can make this decision in a safe way.”

Bardwell notes that they don’t want this shift to over-the-counter access to be viewed as a substitute for going to the doctor for things like an annual exam.

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