Birth control pills are expected to be available without a prescription in early 2024, thanks to recent FDA approval. (Credit: BruceBlaus, Wikimedia Commons)

Getting birth control is about to get easier.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a contraceptive pill for sale both online and in stores throughout the country, which customers can purchase without a prescription. Opill, as it’s called, is still being manufactured presently by health company Perrigo, who says it will be available for purchase early next year.

Still, FDA approval is a significant and historic win in and of itself. “[This is] the first time a non-prescription daily oral contraceptive will be an available option for millions of people in the United States,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release. 

She added: “When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available non-prescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy.”

This move has been a long time coming, too. Dr. Melissa Simon, a professor of clinical gynecology at Northwestern University, told NBC News that, though this is a “monumental decision,” she noted that “over-the-counter birth control is available in over 100 countries, so we’ve been behind in availing safe, effective methods such as this oral contraceptive pill to individuals who are trying to avoid pregnancy.”

It’s an especially critical development in a country where abortions have become exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to access. That’s due to the 2022 Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling which had once made safe, legal abortion the law of the land.

Just last month, President Joe Biden had called for improved access to contraceptives by way of an executive order. “Congressional Republicans want to ban abortion nationwide, but go beyond that, by taking FDA-approved medication for terminating a pregnancy off the market and make it harder to obtain contraception,” the president said via an accompanying Instagram post.

WIth Opill’s approval for general sale, the FDA directly aims to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and their potential negative impacts,” its press release states, noting that nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies experienced nationwide each year are unplanned.

“Unintended pregnancies have been linked to negative maternal and perinatal outcomes … with associated adverse neonatal, developmental and child health outcomes,” the release added.