Abortion pills can be bought at the pharmacy, so why can’t birth control pills?

Since last Tuesday, the Australian abortion route has become significantly more accessible. A landmark decision was announced: have a stock of medication needed to terminate a pregnancy in all pharmacies, and have permission from all doctors and nurses to prescribe it.

Certainly, this change in policy will help to overcome the deep and longstanding sociocultural divides that are preventing many people from managing their own reproductive health care. While abortion is legal in all states and territories, the lottery of zip codes does not stop – as well as class, race, age, and ability – regularly impacting a person’s choices when it comes to terminating a pregnancy.

Australia has expanded access to medical abortion pills, but has yet to easily manufacture the birth control pill.

Australia has expanded access to medical abortion pills, but has yet to easily manufacture the birth control pill. Credit: Fiona-Lee Quimby

The same week as Australia announced plans to make medical abortion pills easier to access, the US introduced own historical health care measure, announced the birth control pill—commonly known as the “pill”—will be available at supermarkets and pharmacies without consulting a doctor. I purposely mentioned the pill’s abbreviation, as its abbreviation has deep historical relevance. “The pill” is a simple, uncomplicated moniker. When birth control pills were first introduced, mention of the pill was just – pill – allows women to be discreet in how they find drugs.

Over time, the pill has come to represent something larger and more iconic than itself. Like the succinctness of its medical title, what lingers in the pill’s political DNA is a shortened path through which women can exist more freely in the world. Since the 1960s, it has given us the authority to manage our own reproductive choices, giving us more economic, social and familial freedom. That is the the pill: the pill is superior to all pills, at least in terms of how it works to change the old and oppressive cultural regimes that have dictated how women must manage their own bodies. So why this pill? prescription is still required in Australiaa trivial barrier, especially after the leaps and bounds made on home turf when it comes to access to abortion?

As long as people are having sex, there are measures – whether medical or otherwise – to prevent conception. As Margaret Talbot wrote for New Yorkers, The ancient Egyptians created vaginal plugs from crocodile droppings. The Greeks imagined that conception could be prevented by anointing the uterus with frankincense and myrrh.” And yet, despite these ancient rituals, regulations still pose barriers when it comes to managing one’s own reproductive organs in 2023.

Conversations around sex – and all of its complications – always start well before stepping into the GP’s or school nurse’s office for the first time. Between the heated conversations of schoolgirls, the slick online archive of pornography, and our messy journey to understanding our own bodies, we are introduced to sex before we have the tools to understand it. However, modern efforts to prevent access to contraceptives are still alive and well.


Currently, the logic in Australia is that access to abortion and contraception are closely linked.

However, as it stands, birth control pills don’t just help protect you from an unwanted pregnancy. It allows individuals to manage the sometimes debilitating headache of having the female reproductive system, putting fertility aside: possibly assisting with painful periods, reducing the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer, improving acne, and treating endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).


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