Doctors' Group Advocates Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills

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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published an opinion piece on Tuesday that advocated making birth control pills available without a prescription. The piece, which was published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, went on to assert that doing so would ultimately likely result in a reduced number of unplanned pregnancies nationwide.

As a report by CNN noted on Wednesday, the idea of making birth control pills available without a prescription has been debated off and on since at least the 1990s. Doctors have long asserted that doing so will ultimately save billions of dollars associated with the costs of unplanned pregnancies, while at the same time posing no increased health risks to women.

Here is some of the key information that has surfaced regarding the ACOG's recommendations on Tuesday and the ensuing debate.

* According to HealthDay News, the ACOG's recommendation was partially based on the fact that approximately half of the pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned.

* Also cited was the belief of the committee that the number of unplanned pregnancies could be decreased by offering easier access to birth control pills, which could in turn encourage more women to use them, as well as prevent gaps in use caused by lack of access or cost.

* The group told CNN and other media outlets on Wednesday that mounting evidence gleaned from the 20 years' worth of research gathered since the issue was first broached in the 1990's has shown that women are perfectly capable of determining whether or not they are good candidates for the pill, including conducting a self-assessment of various risk factors, such as smoking or obesity.

* Several groups, including the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, have sided with the ACOG's recommendation. In a statement quoted by CNN, the institute stated that allowing birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter "will greatly reduce the systemic barriers ... that currently prevent Latinas from regularly accessing birth control."

* Dr. Dan Grossman, who is the vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, as well as an ACOG committee member, told Reuters on Tuesday that his one concern is that allowing birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter may result in a cost barrier, should pharmaceutical companies decide to make them too expensive for regular use.

* Some doctors, including Fox News health commentator Dr. Manny Alvarez, have voiced health concerns related to making the pills available over-the-counter. Alvarez went on the record on Wednesday as saying that he believes that some women need a more careful risk assessment by their doctors before going on birth control, which would not be provided if the pills were available over-the-counter.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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