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Wider Distribution of Birth Control Needed, But With Better Support System For Oral Contraception

Contraception Dith the recent furor over contraception, this question has two possible interpretations. 

1) For the first time in decades, women's right to contraception has been debated in Congress.

2) Virginia Postrel's Bloomberg News article on oral contracption questions why birth control pills aren't available without prescription.

For the record, I support a person's right to obtain and use contraception. I have misgivings about requiring religiously-affiliated institutions to include contraception in employee health coverage if the sponsoring religion considers using or supporting contraception sinful. This conflict of conscience is one negative consequence of employer-administered health care, as PolicyMic pundit Akil Alleyne's article "Blunt Amendment Showdown Highlights Need to End Employer-Based Health Care Plans" maintains.

I propose looking at the following types of contraception:

- Items currently available over the counter, such as condoms and spermicidal foam.

- Oral contraceptives.

Current OTC items are widening their distribution, but there is room to expand. I've seen condom-distributing vending machines in a few bars, for example, but there are many more bars without them. I've never seen such machines in a hotel, why not? In short, there are many places where couples meet and mate that some form of contraception is unavilable. That should be corrected.

Oral contraception is not so simple. Postrel's article and its comments outline why. Let's assume for a minute we could afford the deregulation process, after all, why shouldn't we not have what's available in Europe and Mexico? Then the question becomes, should OTC oral contraceptives be as widely available as condoms and foam? I'd prefer a more controlled OTC distribution, limited to outlets with pharmacists, for the following reasons:

a) Only a single-use morning-after pill would be equivalent to a condom or dose of spermicidal foam. I'm not comparing effectiveness, I'm comparing situations. The morning-after pill is the only oral contraceptive I know that is taken once after intercourse. Others pills are taken daily; I can't see beginning that commitment at a bar, restaurant, or hotel.

b) At the risk of insulting some women's intelligence, I'd prefer OTC oral contraceptives be distributed where someone who knows the options be available for consultation. That person would be the local pharmacist, who could answer questions about issues such as differences in pill composition, side effects, and proper use. This advice would be optional.

c) Doctors would still be able to recommend oral contraception for uses such as hormonal regulation; pharmacists would be available to consult if needed.

In short, I favor wider distribution of contraception, but feel that oral contraceptive use needs more of a support system. I don't want to tell women they have to talk to someone but I want someone available to talk to when needed. So put condoms and spermicidal foam anywhere you think they'll sell. Oral contraceptvies can go over the counter, but only where there's a pharmacist for support.

Photo Credit: Stacey Lynn Baum

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