By Virginia Buchanan

November 27th, 2012  12:00pm

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (“ACOG”), the premier professional organization of American’s obstetricians, is recommending for the first time that birth control be made available for over the counter purchase.  It has been nearly 20 years since such a dramatic position has been voiced by main-stream medicine.  In the early 90’s, the American Journal of Public Health published a paper supporting the availability of oral contraceptives without  a prescription, but, perhaps due to lack of sufficient information showing the safety and effectiveness of birth control pills, the idea languished in this country.    However, a number of other countries have made oral contraceptives available over the counter for years.  Dr. Daniel Grossman, vice chair for ACOG’s committee on Gynecologic Practice Bulletins, believes there is adequate proof of the pill’s safety to make a difference in this country now.

The recommendation comes at a time when it is estimated that half of the pregnancies that occur are unplanned, and while abortions have declined in the past decade, there is still a disproportionate number of abortions among Latino women.  Access and cost are cited as problems with obtaining birth control according to ACOG.  “Over-the-counter access will greatly reduce the systemic barriers, like poverty, immigration status and language, that currently prevent Latinas from regularly accessing birth control and results in higher rates of unintended pregnancy,” the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health said in a statement.

ACOG’s support for over the counter access is just the first step in the process to making it a reality.  A pharmaceutical company would have to be willing to engage in the process for over the counter approval, and the FDA would have to approve it, which will be a lengthy and costly process.

Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio.  She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committeee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.