NEWS: F.D.A. approves first U.S. over-the-counter birth control pill

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

F.D.A. Approves First U.S. Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

The New York Times, July 13, 2023

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved a birth control pill to be sold without a prescription for the first time in the United States, a milestone that could significantly expand access to contraception. The medication, called Opill, will become the most effective birth control method available over the counter – more effective at preventing pregnancy than condoms, spermicides and other nonprescription methods. Experts in reproductive health said its availability could be especially useful for young women, teenagers and those who have difficulty dealing with the time, costs or logistical hurdles involved in visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription. The pill’s manufacturer, Perrigo Company, based in Dublin, said Opill would most likely become available from stores and online retailers in the United States in early 2024. The company did not say how much the medication would cost – a key question that will help determine how many people will use the pill – but Frédérique Welgryn, Perrigo’s global vice president for women’s health, said in a statement that the company was committed to making the pill “accessible and affordable to women and people of all ages.” Ms. Welgryn has also said the company would have a consumer assistance program to provide the pill at no cost to some women. “Today’s approval marks the first time a nonprescription daily oral contraceptive will be an available option for millions of people in the United States,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available nonprescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy.” Since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion last year, the accessibility of contraception has become an increasingly urgent issue. But long before that, the move to make a nonprescription pill available for all ages had received widespread support from specialists in reproductive and adolescent health and groups like the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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The Next Wave of Abortion Rights Ballot Measures Looks Different From the Last

Vox, July 12, 2023

Last election cycle, abortion rights won in all six states with abortion ballot measures, including in red states like Kentucky and Montana that otherwise elected Republican lawmakers. Now, this fall and in next year’s election, national liberal groups are planning to invest more heavily in ballot measure campaigns, seeing them as vehicles both to protect access to abortion care and to amplify their broader political message that abortion bans are out of step with voters. Advocates in at least 10 states are considering ballot measure campaigns over the next two years to codify abortion rights. In some states – including Florida, South Dakota, Ohio, Arizona, and Missouri – the measures could help restore rights that have already been lost. In other states, such as Nevada, Maryland, Colorado, and New York, voters could enshrine existing state protections. Anti-abortion activists, in turn, have vowed to spend millions more dollars to defeat them. The results last year were “a wake-up call that taught us we have a ton of work to do,” Kelsey Pritchard, the state public affairs director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told Politico in March. “We’re going to be really engaged on these ballot measures that are often very radical and go far beyond what Roe ever did.” Some abortion rights activists do hope to codify protections beyond what Roe v. Wade guaranteed – sparking internal debates among reproductive rights advocates about tactical ballot measure language. Most of these measures would be on the ballot in 2024. The exception is Ohio, where reproductive rights advocates are organizing for a new constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights during the upcoming election this November. As campaigns to get abortion on the ballot begin, fights are also brewing about ballot measures themselves, which provide voters with opportunities to weigh in directly on state policy changes. In some states, citizens can collect petition signatures to get measures on the ballot; in others, lawmakers have to first approve the proposals. The recent success of abortion rights measures has catalyzed efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict these voter initiatives.

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Reproductive Rights Groups Sue to Stop Iowa’s New 6-Week Abortion Ban

NBC, July 12, 2023

A group of reproductive rights groups said Wednesday they had sued to stop Iowa’s newly passed six-week abortion ban from going into effect. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Emma Goldman Clinic, a women’s health care facility in Iowa City, filed the legal challenge in a state court Wednesday afternoon – less than 12 hours after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the ban. The suit, filed in Iowa District Court for Polk County, seeks a temporary injunction. If it is granted, the law would be blocked while the legal challenge plays out in the court system. In a phone call with reporters, the groups filing the suit said the initial hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday local time – shortly before Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is scheduled to sign the bill. Officials with the groups said they expect the case to reach the state Supreme Court. If it is not blocked by the court, the law would go into effect immediately after Reynolds signs it Friday afternoon at a summit hosted by a Christian conservative group, which several 2024 Republican candidates are expected to attend. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are some of the candidates set to appear at the conference, called the Family Leadership Summit. Reynolds’ choice of venue to sign the bill further cements the role the divisive issue will play in presidential politics in the key early-voting state. While polling in the state, as well as nationally, found that a majority of voters support women having the right to abortion, support for harsher abortion restrictions remains popular among conservative evangelical Christians – a key voting bloc in the state’s Republican caucuses. If the law were to go into effect immediately following Reynolds’ signature, it would send abortion clinics and patients in the state scrambling – an outcome the reproductive rights groups referred to in their announcement of their suit. “If this abortion ban goes into effect, it will place an unacceptable burden on patients’ ability to access essential abortion care, especially those who already face systemic inequities,” Ruth Richardson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a statement.

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Confuse and Mislead: U.S. Anti-Abortion Groups’ Strategy to Soften Extreme Bans

The Guardian, July 13, 2023

In the year since the U.S. supreme court ruled there is no constitutional right to abortion, the anti-abortion movement is still struggling to define a cohesive vision of post-Roe America. Now they’re employing a new strategy: use confusing or misleading language to repackage and soften the more extreme types of abortion restrictions. A recent example appeared in the Hill, where Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, one of the most powerful anti-abortion groups in the country, wrote an opinion column arguing that the United States does not actually have any abortion “bans”. Even states with the strictest abortion laws have some “exceptions”, Dannenfelser wrote, so there are no true “bans” on the procedure. “The anti-abortion movement is fueled by vague language and misinformation,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of Women’s March. “The more they obfuscate, the more successful they are, because when their agenda comes to light and is understood by voters, they do not win.” Today, 14 states have abortion bans that do not offer any exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Republican infighting has slowed the anti-abortion movement’s progress in states such as South Carolina, where the conservative legislature was and remains split on questions the American public broadly agrees on, such as whether abortion bans should include exceptions for rape or incest victims. The problems facing the anti-abortion movement intensified last fall, when midterm voters turned out in favor of reproductive rights, opting to protect abortion access in states such as Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, and California. Even before the election, conservative state lawmakers were apprehensive on abortion after the demise of Roe. The journalists Dannenfelser addresses in her opinion piece spent the past year documenting the way abortion bans – even those with exceptions for the life of the mother – are effectively useless when doctors fear prosecution for misinterpreting the law. In March, five women sued Texas after suffering severe health complications during pregnancy. The state’s overlapping abortion bans were supposed to allow for the procedure in cases where the pregnancy risks substantial harm to the mother’s health.

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How Governors and CEOs Are Negotiating Deals in Abortion-Ban Era

CNBC, July 10, 2023

When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the repeal of her state’s abortion ban in April, she framed it in terms of competitiveness – a draw for women and for companies. “If you don’t think abortion’s about the economy, you might not have a uterus,” said Whitmer, a Democrat. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sees it as an economic issue too. But he said his state’s abortion ban was drawing companies there.“There’s a lot of businesses and a lot of Americans that like the social positions that the state of Texas is taking,” Abbott, a Republican, said on CNBC in 2021 after the law was first passed. One year after the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion rights to the states, the truth about abortion and the economy is far murkier than either governor portrayed it. Governors of states that have codified abortion rights are using their laws as a selling point. In an interview, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said the pitch is resonating. “We know having heard from employers that this matters to their employees, and Massachusetts is a state where we protect women’s access to needed health care,” said Healey, a Democrat. But there is no evidence yet of an influx of workers or businesses resulting from the state’s protections of reproductive rights. In fact, Massachusetts is still dealing with population declines. In New York, where fellow Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an interview that she has been known to “cold call” CEOs and point out the state’s abortion rights, she could not point to any individual companies that bought the pitch. “I don’t have a specific case to point to, but I get their attention,” she said. While some states with abortion restrictions, like Texas, are among the leaders in net in-migration according to Census data, there is no evidence that those laws are a draw. Early research suggests that women – and professional women in particular – are paying close attention to state reproductive freedoms – and access to abortions – in deciding where they are willing to live and work. That is potentially crucial in an era of critical worker shortages.

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