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EDITORIAL: Over the counter

When it comes to the availability of and access to birth control for women, who would you guess presents the biggest obstacles? The answer might surprise you.

The Associated Press and other media outlets reported last week that Donald Trump says he believes women should be able to obtain birth control without a prescription. His comments came during an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show,” on which Mr. Trump suggested that, for many women, obtaining a prescription can be challenging.

The AP report pointed out that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declared support for nonprescription birth control pills in 2012, but some groups oppose the measure because of the health risks associated with the medicines. Insurance also doesn’t cover over-the-counter drugs, which could make the pills far more expensive. That’s the talking point offered by Planned Parenthood and its fellow travelers, anyway.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, warned that such a move would “put access to birth control out of reach for millions of women by making it more expensive.” NARAL Pro-Choice also voiced opposition, accusing Mr. Trump of fighting policies “that actually help women.”

But when has providing more competition and access led to a product becoming more expensive? Regarding common, safe and effective contraceptives, Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at the Independent Women’s Forum, made just that point in a 2014 commentary for Forbes:

“Consumers would be able to see on the shelf the different products that are available, compare prices and ultimately select the option that provides them with the best value, just as they choose products in other markets. Providers would truly have to compete for women’s business, which would lead to lower prices, more innovation and better products. What’s not to like?”

Further, Ms. Manning upended the purported insurance issue, noting that “Plan B” emergency contraception is already available over the counter, with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage mandate applying to the so-called morning-after pill. “Isn’t it a little strange that ‘Plan B’ is available without a prescription, and yet ‘Plan A’ (or normal, before-the-fact birth control) is not?”

Ms. Manning notes that Planned Parenthood claims to be dedicated to reproductive health and access to such services. If so, its stance on deregulation makes no sense. What’s really at play, she argues, is the bottom line.

“Planned Parenthood rakes in $1.2 billion annually,” Ms. Manning writes. “More than a third of their services involve providing contraception to women (and billing third parties for those costs). As a major provider of birth control and the nation’s No. 1 abortion provider, why would Planned Parenthood support other options for women? … Who’s working against women now?”


This is protectionism, pure and simple. You can’t argue that you’re in favor of availability and access, while doing all you can to limit availability and access. If Planned Parenthood is really about what it claims to be about, then it should welcome the access — and better prices — that competition provides.

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