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FDA approves first over-the-counter contraceptive pill in US

woman hesitates to take pill

Prostock-studio | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 07/16/23

The Opill works differently than its predecessors, but it is still a contraceptive and thus works contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The FDA has approved the first non-prescription oral contraceptive, the Opill. The new drug will be available to purchase over-the-counter and is expected to increase the use of contraceptives in the US. The makers of Opill say that it will be available in pharmacies across the US in the first quarter of 2024

While over-the-counter contraceptives are available in over 100 countries, Opill is the first to be approved by the FDA for purchase in the US. It is a single pill taken orally once per day and is said to work differently than previous iterations of the pill, as it does not contain estrogen. Instead, Reuters explains, it uses progestin, a synthetic form of the progesterone hormone, which suppresses certain hormones that ready the female body to become pregnant.

According to Perrigo, the American-Irish company that produces the Opill, the drug is 98% effective. Speaking to CNA, however, Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB-GYN and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, noted that this contraceptive is not as effective as its predecessors.

“Missing in the conversation is the fact that it is not as effective. Distributing this without a physician’s visit will prevent women from obtaining more effective contraception, giving a false sense of security and increasing unintended pregnancies,” Skop said, adding “Because it does not prevent ovulation as well as other methods, there is also a concern of a post-fertilization (abortifacient) effect on the uterine lining.”

The Reuters report also notes that the Opill must be taken on a much stricter schedule than other estrogen based contraceptives. Users of the Opill must take the drug every day within the same 3-hour timeframe, or risk losing their protection and be forced to start all over again. Despite voiced concerns by the FDA that users of Opill may become confused by the over-the-counter directions of the drug, the organization approved its use in July.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was quick to comment on the FDA’s decision to authorize the Opill. In a statement from Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, the prelate discouraged the use of the Opill, noting that it puts women at risk

“This action by a government entity flies in the face of responsible medical practice and concerns for women’s health. Claims that the benefits of this action outweigh the risks are unfounded, especially in light of strong evidence of the many harmful risks of hormonal contraception to women’s health.

“Allowing this hormonal contraception to be dispensed ‘over the counter’—without the supervision of a doctor and contrary to the mounting evidence of many harmful side effects—violates the Hippocratic Oath by putting the health of women at grave risk.”

It should be noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) prohibits the use of any contraceptives by the faithful. Paragraph 2370 of the CCC instructs: 

“Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is “intrinsically evil.”

CatholicismContraceptionUnited States
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