Access to Contraception Should Not Be Up for Debate

Since the fall of Roe, we have seen just how fragile our reproductive rights are in the United States.

Reproductive healthcare provider Dr. Barbara Zipkin councils a patient at Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 11, 2024. (The Washington Post  / Getty Images)

Sixty-three years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first commercially produced birth control. Since then, we have seen countless contraceptive options come to market, and 99 percent of sexually active women report using some form of contraception. Most women don’t remember a time before birth control—it’s become a ubiquitous part of countless people’s lives. 

I’m a women’s health nurse practitioner (NP) and educator at Emory University, teaching the next generation of NPs to care for individuals across the lifespan, including for the sexual and reproductive healthcare needs. It’s felt like whiplash for reproductive freedoms in this country. 

On the one hand, this year we saw the first over-the-counter birth control, Opill, hit the shelves, breaking a massive barrier to access to contraception. This is what happens when we trust the FDA and medical professionals to do their job in ensuring people have access to the medicines and medical devices they need.

Approving Opill for over-the-counter sales will expand access to contraception and reduce unintended pregnancies, especially among young people, minorities, and those who have difficulty dealing with the challenges involved in getting a prescription for their contraceptive needs. (Perrigo)

However, that trust in the FDA to do its job is eroding as courts and government officials influenced by far-right groups have decided they know what’s best for women, and that they know better than medical professionals. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, a case that is putting access to the FDA-approved drug mifepristone at risk. The far-right group, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, claimed they were concerned about the safety and efficacy of the drug as an abortifacient—but as a health practitioner, it was easy to see their argument had no basis. 

I know how safe mifepristone is. Its safety has been evaluated four times just in the past 20 years by the FDA.

I got my start in my career providing abortion care during the pandemic, when telehealth was most people’s only access to care. Mifepristone was what we relied on.

The World Health Organization recommends two regimens for medication abortion: misoprostol alone or combined with another medication, mifepristone. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

I went to school for years to be able to make these kinds of decisions with my patients. Judges and politicians have no business weighing in on medical practices. Should the Court rule on the side of Alliance, this could open the floodgates to political oversight of medicine. 

Alliance v. FDA and other cases like Idaho v. U.S., which could result in pregnant women being denied emergency care, that are popping up across the country mark an alarming trend of the politicization of medicine. We are seeing it now as access to abortion care is rapidly eroding and women are often forced to travel as much as 100 miles to obtain one. With it, countless women’s health clinics are closing their doors, but this is indicative of how quickly access to necessary medical care can be lost, like birth control. 

State legislatures are starting to enshrine the right to contraception into law, as seen in constitutional amendments in Washington, D.C., California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

But other legislatures are seeing these efforts blocked. 

Access to contraceptives shouldn’t be a partisan issue, considering 93 percent of Republicans support birth control pills in “all or most cases.” Medical decisions should be left to medical professionals and their patients, plain and simple. The FDA has a crucial role in ensuring that the drugs on the market are safe and effective, and partisan beliefs have no business influencing this. If the overturning of Roe has taught us anything, it’s that we need to protect our rights while we still have them. 

I’ve spent my career fighting to bring access to reproductive healthcare to women, especially in underserved communities. The availability of Opill is a huge step in the right direction, but we have to ensure that access to contraception is protected across the board as we continue to strive to protect reproductive freedoms in a post-Roe country. 

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Dr. Shawana Moore PhD, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, PNAP, FAAN, is an associate professor at Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and MSN/DNP program director who specializes in providing women’s and gender-related care throughout the lifespan. Dr. Moore is a nationally recognized women’s health nurse practitioner and a past president of the National Association of Practitioners in Women’s Health (2022-2023 two-year term). She advocates for NPs to speak out on the impact of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision on the medical field.