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Put the pill on drugstore shelves

Women were finally trusted to treat their own vaginal yeast infections with over-the-counter drugs like Monistat in 1991. 

Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered that the most common morning-after pill should be made available over-the-counter for women of all ages, a ruling the Justice Department is appealing.

Regardless of how you feel about morning-after birth control, it's time that the tiny pill that prevents us from getting into that situation in the first place takes its rightful spot on drugstore shelves. 

We can buy drugs that help us fall asleep, stop coughing, shrink hemorrhoids, lose weight, stop sneezing and cure our hay fever, but we can’t get one tiny pill to keep us from getting pregnant?

The birth control pill is 53 years old. It’s time. 

All the old arguments first used against making drugs that cure yeast infections OTC have been bandied about for years to keep the pill out of easy reach.

Opponents think women need a doctor’s advice to make this kind of decision. They worry that side effects could be risky. They’re afraid that if the No. 1 reason women go to their OB/GYN – to get their birth control prescription – no longer exists then we’ll stop going altogether.

Yet the doctors who have the most access to this issue (and us) are in favor of making oral contraceptives available over-the-counter without a prescription, just like condoms.  

Calling unintended pregnancies a major public health problem in the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended last year that birth control pills be made available without a doctor’s prescription. They cited numerous studies that show women are perfectly capable of self-screening for existing conditions that make it inadvisable to take the pill, such as blood clots, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers and uncontrolled diabetes. 

Risks? Yep, they’re there, just like they are when you pop an aspirin and run the risk of stomach bleeding or liver damage. 

But consider this: Your risk of getting blood clots from taking the pill is extremely low. If you’re pregnant or if you’ve just had a baby, you’re twice as likely to have blood clots.

Half of the nation’s pregnancies every year are unintended, a rate that hasn’t changed much in 20 years. 

There’s a host of potential health complications associated with pregnancy: hypertension, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, severe infection, vaginal thrush and, for older women, breast cancer.

That sure sounds riskier than giving us access to a pill that keeps us out of this situation in the first place. 

Over the counter? Heck, we should be dropping these gems from airplanes.