You have 4 summaries left

The Daily

How the Birth Control Pill Got Over the Counter

Wed Jul 19 2023
Birth ControlReproductive HealthOver-the-Counter AccessAbortion Debate


The episode explores the history of the birth control pill, efforts for over-the-counter access, growing support for over-the-counter availability, and controversies surrounding the topic. It highlights key milestones, debates, and considerations related to birth control accessibility.


Increased Access and Transformative Potential

Making birth control available over the counter without a prescription can provide easier access to effective contraception, benefiting young women, teenagers, and those in poor and rural communities. Affordability is crucial for its transformative impact.

Abortion Debate and Birth Control

The abortion debate has often overshadowed discussions about over-the-counter birth control, with anti-abortion forces expressing concerns about teenage promiscuity and conflating birth control with abortion.

Support and Opposition

Reproductive health experts, major medical organizations, and young advocates have shown support for over-the-counter access to birth control. However, opposition exists from religious leaders, pro-family women, and concerns about safety.

Political Dynamics

While some Republicans support expanding contraception access to prevent unplanned pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion, anti-abortion groups and conservative activists have remained relatively quiet on the issue.


  1. History of Birth Control Pill
  2. Efforts for Over-the-Counter Access
  3. Growing Support for Over-the-Counter Access
  4. Controversies and Considerations

History of Birth Control Pill

00:02 - 08:43

  • The birth control pill was developed in the 1950s and approved by the FDA in 1960, revolutionizing reproductive health.
  • In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that married couples have a constitutional right to contraception, paving the way for widespread access.
  • By the '80s, birth control pills were widely used by millions of American women, including many Catholics.

Efforts for Over-the-Counter Access

08:32 - 16:57

  • Reproductive health experts in the early 1990s discuss the idea of an over-the-counter birth control pill.
  • Scientists conduct research to prove the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter birth control.
  • By the early 2010s, major medical organizations support over-the-counter birth control.
  • The Affordable Care Act mandates coverage of prescription birth control, sparking controversy.
  • The idea of over-the-counter birth control is overshadowed by the abortion debate.

Growing Support for Over-the-Counter Access

16:40 - 24:48

  • In 2022, after Roe v. Wade is overturned, a French company partners with an American reproductive health group to submit an application for over-the-counter birth control to the FDA.
  • Concerns about contraception increase due to potential loss of Supreme Court precedents.
  • Public attention and support for over-the-counter birth control grows during FDA advisory committee hearings.
  • Young people share personal stories about difficulties accessing prescription birth control and advocate for over-the-counter availability.

Controversies and Considerations

24:26 - 29:22

  • Women of color are advocating for birth control to be available over the counter with no age restrictions, as it could provide easier access to effective contraception.
  • Doctors argue that deep interactions with health professionals are not necessary before starting to use contraception and that making birth control available over the counter would not prevent women from having discussions with providers.
  • Pro-family women oppose the proposal to allow over-the-counter access to birth control pills, expressing concerns about availability for young people without parental permission.
  • Anti-abortion groups and conservative activists have remained quiet on this issue, possibly due to focusing their energy on battling anti-abortion laws and pursuing a national agenda.
  • Some Republicans are supporting expanding contraception access as they see it as a way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.
  • While abortion access is becoming more restricted, the availability of birth control over the counter is increasing, creating a seeming contradiction in reproductive rights.