Free the Pill: Moving oral contraceptives (OCs) over the counter (OTC) in the US

Oral contraceptives (or birth control pills) are one of the safest and best-studied medications on the market today, and one of the most popular and effective birth control methods worldwide. In more than 100 countries, birth control pills are available over the counter—but the United States isn’t one of them. Research shows that the prescription requirement is a huge barrier to access, particularly for people without easy access to a health care provider and/or who face stigma or discrimination in the health care system.

Since 2004, Ibis has convened the Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group, which calls for OCs OTC that are affordable, fully covered by insurance, and available to people of all ages. The working group is a coalition of more than 100 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, nonprofit research and advocacy groups, university-based researchers, and prominent clinicians who share a commitment to providing people of all ages and backgrounds easier access to safe, effective, acceptable, and affordable contraceptives. The working group is committed to centering the voices and power of people of color, Indigenous peoples, and young people, and to holding any and all OTC contraceptive developments to the highest standards of equity, community accountability, and principled partnership.

The working group is partnering with HRA Pharma to conduct the necessary research to submit an application to the US Food and Drug Administration to make a birth control pill available OTC. Once submitted, an application can take three to five years until, if successful, the product is available without a prescription.

Free the Pill is our multi-year campaign to educate, engage, and build support for OCs OTC in the United States. As part of this work, the campaign collaborates with Advocates for Youth to center the voices and leadership of young people and support them in demanding equal access to future OTC birth control pills.

Other core activities include:

  • Supporting and conducting research to inform OCs OTC efforts
  • Working with our partners to push for both public and private insurance coverage of OTC contraception without a prescription
  • Hosting regular meetings with working group members
  • Growing the coalition by collaborating with young people, parents, health care providers and their professional societies, and organizations working in health, policy, social justice, and youth engagement
  • Building awareness, increasing support, and advancing our policy objectives through our annual celebratory days: Free the Pill Day (May 9) and World Contraception Day (September 26).

Peer-reviewed Articles (37)

Policy Briefs (6)

Commentaries (7)

Other Resources (2)