Whitmer urges Biden to allow over-the-counter birth control

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks before signing prescription cost-regulating legislation at the W. Saginaw Highway Meijer in Lansing, Feb. 23, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

By Jon King, Michigan Advance

Citing a need to “get creative and use every tool in our toolbox to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan and across the United States,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday called on President Biden to make birth control available over the counter without a prescription.

In a letter to the president urging federal action, Whitmer said the move would remove a costly barrier to accessing essential medication. 

“The prescription requirement undermines the reproductive freedom of millions of Americans, including the 2.2 million Michigan women of reproductive age,” stated Whitmer in her letter. “To counter dangerous efforts to limit women’s reproductive freedom, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and the White House have a responsibility to take all scientifically supported steps to support women in making their own choices about their reproductive health.”

The Dobbs decision overturned Roe v Wade, which for nearly 50 years had guaranteed abortion access for women. That upending of constitutional precedent triggered a long-dormant 1931 Michigan law banning abortion in all instances except to save the life of the mother. However, an injunction has temporarily blocked enforcement of the ban.

Whitmer’s request to remove the prescription requirement follows a new application with the FDA by HRA Pharma to make birth control available over the counter. 

“Getting this done would knock down the most costly, time-consuming barrier to obtaining birth control,” Whitmer stated in a press release. “In the wake of the overturn of Roe v Wade, we must pull out all the stops to make it easier and more affordable for everyone to secure contraception and take bold steps to protect women by ensuring that health — not politics — guides medical decisions. Let’s work together so women have control over their own bodies.” 

Whitmer added that moving birth control to over the counter status would also mitigate inequities in the health care system. 

“Black, Latino and immigrant women disproportionately struggle to find providers and secure a prescription for contraceptives,” she said. “Nearly three dozen medical associations, representing more than a quarter million providers across the nation, support FDA review of over the counter status to enhance access to contraception medication.”

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