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

Birth control pills are an essential part of the full range of sexual and reproductive health care and are one of the best-studied medicines on the market today. However, there are many barriers to getting them, including having to obtain a prescription, that disproportionately impact specific communities due to systemic inequities. In more than 100 countries, birth control pills are available over the counter (OTC)—but the United States isn’t one of them. 

Free the Pill is a campaign to educate and engage in support of OTC birth control pills in the United States that are fully covered by insurance, priced affordably, and available to people of all ages. Campaign activities are driven by the Free the Pill coalition (formerly the Oral Contraceptives Over-the-Counter Working Group) a group of more than 100 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, research and advocacy groups, youth activists, health care providers, prominent medical and health professional associations, and other professionals who have been working since 2004 to build the evidence in support of this effort. The coalition recognizes all forms of oppression as a root cause of contraceptive inequities, and that an intersectional and reproductive justice lens must be applied to our work. Therefore, the coalition is committed to reproductive justice values, applies a youth-adult partnership approach, and centers the leadership of those who face the greatest barriers to contraceptive care and would benefit the most from easier access, including people of color and Indigenous peoples, young people, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ folks, and those working to make ends meet. 

Core activities include: 

  • Conducting and amplifying research to inform efforts to switch birth control pills from prescription status to OTC status 
  • Supporting policies that ensure young people have equal access to OTC contraceptives 
  • Advocating at the federal and state levels to expand public and private insurance coverage of OTC contraception without a prescription and ensure affordability 
  • Ensuring measures are in place to guarantee OTC contraceptives are available on the shelf, and that an individual’s beliefs do not interfere with other people’s access 
  • Engaging in regular convenings to build consensus on key issues in partnership with those who face the most barriers to access and will benefit most from OTC access 
  • Engaging in public-facing opportunities to raise awareness and increase support, including through annual celebratory days: Free the Pill Day (May 9) and World Contraception Day (September 26) 

Peer-reviewed Articles (42)

Policy Briefs (6)

Commentaries (7)

Other Resources (3)