Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking him to make birth control pills available over the counter, without the need for a prescription.
“We all need to get creative and use every tool in our toolbox to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan and across the United States,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Today, I sent a letter to President Biden urging federal action to make birth control available over the counter, without a prescription. Getting this done would knock down the most costly, time-consuming barrier to obtaining birth control.”
The letter comes the same day that international pharmaceutical corporation Perrigo, whose base of operations is in Allegan, Michigan, said its division HRA Pharma asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its birth control pill for over-the-counter sale. It's the first time a pharmaceutical company has done so.
It also comes weeks after the conservative U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that had legalized abortion for decades.
“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,” Whitmer said. “Let’s work together so women have control over their own bodies.”
Perrigo said the company's request for FDA approval coming just on the heels of the Supreme Court decision was a mere coincidence — the approval process had taken years.
“Birth control is not a solution for abortion access,” the company's chief strategic and innovations officer Frédérique Welgryn told The New York Times.
Still, making birth control pills more easily accessible would help prevent the need for more abortions.
“Moving to over-the-counter status would also mitigate inequities in our healthcare system,” Whitmer said in her letter. “Due to unequal access to quality family planning services, distrust and racial bias in the medical system, and economic disadvantages, Black, Latinx, and immigrant women disproportionately struggle to find providers and secure a prescription for contraceptives. While federal and state action — including Medicaid expansion and Title X programs — have helped, we should be pulling out all the stops to make it easier and affordable for everyone to secure needed contraception.”
Typically, FDA approval can take up to 10 months. But Dana Singiser, a founder of the nonprofit advocacy group Contraceptive Access Initiative, said the COVID-19 pandemic — in which the FDA fast-tracked vaccines for emergency use — showed that the agency “can work with urgency during a public health emergency, which is what women are facing right now with the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” according to The New York Times.
Whitmer’s full letter is available to read below.