WASHINGTON (Nov. 21) – Discussions about hormonal contraception often veer off into important but tangential issues such as abortion, sexual morality and healthcare funding. But there is a needed debate about this topic that can avoid almost all of the controversy. It centers simply on access—on practical ways to remove government regulatory barriers that make it difficult and unnecessarily costly for women to readily purchase birth-control products.

In a new policy paper, Courtney Joslin, R Street commercial freedom fellow and Steven Greenhut, senior fellow and Western region director examine the current impediments to birth-control access and explain how it could be expanded through the pharmacy-access model.

Hormonal birth control dramatically reduces unintended pregnancy rates and expands a woman’s autonomy to choose her family-planning methods. Because of this, there should be plenty of common ground to pursue simple measures that make it more easily available. However, the FDA’s bureaucratic approval process, even for something as widely used and studied as hormonal birth control, remains an impediment to over-the-counter access.

Despite this, states are moving ahead with useful reforms that allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control after an inexpensive and noninvasive exam. This removes a an unnecessary regulatory barrier and allows women—especially lower income or more vulnerable women—to have easier access to birth-control.

The authors add summarize: “Put simply, by separating access issues from other issues involving logistics, payment and morality, we can help accomplish a simple goal that should be popular across the political aisle: Removing unnecessary government barriers so that women can more easily and affordably buy the hormonal contraception they want to use. Doing so promotes consumer choice and improves women’s reproductive health.”

Read and download the paper here.