In a written opinion, the OB/GYN society made the argument that the benefit of easy access to birth control — a decrease in unplanned pregnancies — outweigh the risks of not having a doctor inform a woman of potential side effects. The most common side effect of birth control pills is a higher likelihood of blood clots or deep-vein thrombosis, but the risk of such effects are rated “extremely low.”
On the other hand, easier access to birth control, particularly a low-cost or cost-free pill, leads to a far lower number of abortions.
Many women attest to not taking the pill regularly because of the logistical and planning issues, as well as cost, associated with going to a doctor for a prescription. Still, oral contraceptives are among the most popular forms of birth control, particularly for “whites, women in their teens and 20s, cohabiting women, childless women and college graduates.”
Interestingly, the U.S. and western Europe are among the only places that require a prescription for birth control pills. In much of the world, it’s easy for a woman to get pills with just a screening required. The United States, however, uses an antiquated system of tying contraception to annual well-woman checkups, so that a doctor can withhold birth control as a means of forcing a woman to come in for a checkup.