Over-The-Counter Birth Control Doesn’t Help Women

Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand

To the surprise of partisan politicians and voters everywhere, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz have appeared to team up on the issue of over-the-counter birth control. Despite their shared goal, their reasonings for over-the-counter birth control are quite different from each other. AOC supports it because she sees it as a way to expand women’s access to healthcare. Ted Cruz sees it as the alternative to a heavily socialized healthcare system. They both have good intentions. However, they are both tragically wrong. Over-the-counter birth control is not a utopic savior of women’s reproductive rights. It also is a drastic simplification of how a free-market healthcare system would operate. Over-the-counter birth control is indeed one of the easiest ways to put women’s health at risk. 

Endangering Women’s Lives in the Name of Politics

When politicians refer to “over-the-counter birth control”, they are not just referring to any contraceptive. They’re referring to long-term hormonal or chemical birth control, which both come in various forms. What the issue of over-the-counter birth control refers to is not condoms or plan B, but the pill, IUDs, or implants. This is an important differentiation for the fact that women use the pill and implants for more reasons than just contraception. They have more effects than a condom. There are more variations with more severe impacts ranging from nausea, weight gain, depression, anxiety, headaches, stroke, and mood swings.

These side effects are not nearly numerous or severe enough to disallow over-the-counter birth control on this basis alone. Plenty of other over-the-counter medications have just as many, or more, side effects. Some are even used in the production of meth. The variation in types and effects of birth control is also not a reason to prevent its over-the-counter sale. There is also a large variation in cold medicine types and their side effects. The real reason over-the-counter birth control would be detrimental for the health of women is due to the fact that access to birth control is one of the only reasons women visit a gynecologist

The Importance of Medical Professionals

Gynecology is one of those fields of medicine people see as very specific, or only necessary, in very specific scenarios. Unless signs of an STI or other related medical problem are obvious, women rarely visit an OB/GYN. Even fewer women visit an OB/GYN on a regular basis. Often, a birth control prescription consultation is one of the only ways to introduce women to the everyday utility of gynecologists. Additionally, during a birth control consultation, gynecologists can talk to women about the various other conditions that birth control can help with. These include PCOS, PMDD, and hormonal acne. This notifies women of health concerns they might not have been aware of. 

Of course, the disallowing of over-the-counter birth control should not happen on a governmental level. That is nothing more than tyranny. However, two prominent politicians cooperating on this issue looks like a direct endorsement. Not just a direct endorsement from celebrities, but celebrities in the government. Most people believe government officials have significant knowledge on what they talk about. When they give dangerous advice, the result is dangerous public behavior. Making this issue about birth control alone, rather than the deregulation of all substances, gives the issue a slant it doesn’t deserve. 

Get The Government Out of Healthcare

Access to birth control is undeniably an issue of healthcare. There are certain drugs that we, as a market, just do not allow over-the-counter. Things like opiates, antipsychotics, and other serious drugs are by prescription only. This is not to oppress people with back pain or psychosis, but to protect people and keep them up to date with their own health. Likewise, prescription birth control does not exist to oppress women. AOC’s insistence on this presents a risk to the female population not just because of the risks associated with birth control, but because it will lessen the frequency of necessary gynecology visits for women. 

Ted Cruz is not off the hook here either. His main reason for pushing for over-the-counter birth control may be healthcare deregulation, but by once again focusing the issue on birth control rather than medicine as a whole, he misconstrues the way markets work. The car market, for instance, wouldn’t change at all or would change very little if Congress fully deregulated it. However, if a few politicians made a specific car part one of the most contentious issues of our time, the people who make up the market may see this piece of engineering as now specifically deregulated. As in, this car part, aside from all the others, is now deregulated for a reason. And just like that, the state has implicitly or explicitly further manipulated the markets. 

The Facade of Government Care

Republicans and Democrats alike love to stand on various platitudes and cliches about how deeply they value “women’s health”. To Democrats, women’s health is about securing abortion rights. To Republicans, women’s health is about banning abortion. Truth is, neither side is genuinely caring about the health of women. Abortion turns out to be a conversation of ethics, not of clinical procedures. Evidently, when it comes to this issue, one that actually impacts women’s health in more ways than one, in ways which take more than 45 minutes to discuss, both sides are mysteriously silent. 

It turns out that no politician legitimately cares about either women’s health or deregulation of markets. They care about money, power, and seeming as if they care. A normal healthcare market would seldom allow dangerous drugs over the counter. Further, it would recognize the long term utility of limiting certain medication to only prescriptions for other reasons than it’s potency. Women’s health and healthcare, in general, cannot be reduced to the deregulation of only a few issues. It is just the same as the legalization of drugs. The legalization of just marijuana is not enough. It fails to recognize the real issue at hand. And just the same, it is not enough to simply deregulate birth control without addressing any legitimate issues of either markets or healthcare.

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