Free the Pill!

Information that men are able to get erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra and Cialis from medical plans, even while in prison, while birth control pills are not available, understandably sends many women into a rage. But it gets worse. Some states, under pressure from misogynist conservatives who still equate birth-control pills with abortion, are allowing pharmacists to refuse to sell birth control pills as an expression of their conscience. Huh? I bet they aren't stopping the peddling of Viagra on moral grounds, even though they must know these drugs are often used for recreational purposes, and not impotence.

Politics around the birth control pill is unhealthy insanity. Karen Platoni explores the issue in the East Bay Express, reminding us that the pill is "highly effective" and "safer than aspirin." Selling it over the counter could prevent hundreds of thousands of abortions annually. So why on earth can't women get their birth control without a prescription?

Platoni says, "America has a serious problem: Nearly half of its pregnancies are unplanned, about three million a year, and 43 percent of them -- roughly 1.3 million -- end in abortion. You could build the world's biggest calculator and still not be able to compute how much this extraordinary unplanned-pregnancy rate costs our society in medical and social support expenses, lowered educational and career attainment, and emotional distress."

The solution is staring us in the face: Make birth control pills available over the counter at drug stores. Hormonal birth control is an unbelievable good solution. Writes Platoni, "It's unobtrusive, reversible, affordable, simple to use, and 99-plus-percent effective if taken properly. Even factoring in misuse, the Pill has a 3 to 6 percent failure rate, better than condoms, diaphragms, sponges, or spermicides. It's also famously safe. As the nation's leading birth-control method, the Pill has been used by 44.5 million women over four decades."

Judith DeSarno, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, has an even better idea: "I think contraception should be handed out on street corners," she said.

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