Donald Trump doesn’t think women should have to have a doctor’s prescription to get birth control, he told quack TV personality Dr. Oz in a Wednesday interview. In the episode of the Dr. Oz Show, which aired Thursday, Trump said some women “just aren't in a position to go get a prescription,” but they should still have access to contraception:
I think what we have in birth control is, you know, when you have to get a prescription, that’s a pretty tough something to climb. And I would say it should not be a prescription. It should not be done by prescription. ... More and more people are coming out and saying that.
He also reiterated that he opposes a woman’s right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.
Trump’s support for increased access to birth control may come as a surprise to some, since he hasn’t been a reliable supporter of reproductive rights. This March, he said he thought that abortions should be illegal and women should be subject to “punishment” for having them, though he quickly distanced himself from that position once he realized that pro-lifers are supposed to say they want to punish doctors, not patients.
But Trump isn’t the first conservative to take this stance on contraception. Some Republican leaders, such as Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have urged lawmakers to make birth control available over the counter as a measure to advance small-government ideals. Now that the Affordable Care Act has made contraception free for all insured women, taking birth control out of the realm of insurance and into the realm of personal expense looks like a win to people who don’t want the government subsidizing sex pills. Out of the mouths of conservatives, statements like these help lawmakers win points with the vast majority of Americans who support access to birth control.
The fact that women would have to pay out of pocket for over-the-counter birth control they now get for free with a prescription is a major hurdle for many who support increased access to contraception. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that women have over-the-counter access to birth control in 2012, in part because of the point Trump cited: Having to procure a prescription is a barrier to access that does far more harm than good. Some have argued that women need a doctor’s counsel on side effects and medication interactions, but many medications currently available over the counter have risks similar to hormonal birth control. Plus, getting pregnant is far more dangerous than oral contraceptives could be, and women are more likely to have unwanted, unexpected pregnancies if they lose a month’s worth of pills and can’t refill their prescription yet, or when they have to plan out regular doctor’s appointments and trips to the drugstore.
Women can already get emergency contraception—the so-called “morning-after pill”—over the counter, and both California and Oregon have established models that look like the most promising marriages of accessibility and affordability for everyday birth control. There, pharmacists can prescribe birth control on the spot for women, meaning it’s still free, but it cuts out the need for a doctor’s visit. I wonder how the Republican Party feels about a candidate who wants to change America’s birth control policies to be more like those on the left coast.