Everything You Need to Know About Birth Control Pills in Wisconsin

(Photo via John Hopkins | Bloomberg School of Public Health)

By Fiona Hatch

July 25, 2023

On July 13, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nation’s first over-the-counter birth control pill, which will soon be sold at drug stores, grocery chains, and online retailers across America. What does that mean for Wisconsin?

For the first time ever, American women will be able to get contraceptive pills without a doctor’s prescription

The announcement is a step forward for women and comes during a challenging time for their reproductive rights. Wisconsin is still governed by a near-total abortion ban that retook effect last year–which essentially bans all pregnancy terminations, except in extreme cases where the mother’s life is in immediate danger.

Amidst ongoing legal challenges to that law, the new non-prescription birth control pill is expected to hit shelves in early 2024.

What is the new pill? 

OPill is a daily, oral contraceptive pill that uses the synthetic form of the progestin hormone to prevent pregnancy. 

“There is now a birth control that people are going to be able to get over the counter,” Dr. Kristin Lyerly, a certified OB/GYN doctor, said in an interview with UpNorthNews. “It’s a progestin-only pill, so it’s not the traditional birth control pill, but it is safe, it is effective, and it is a step in the right direction.” 

While traditional birth control contains two hormones–estrogen and progestin–to prevent pregnancy, OPill is a progestin-only variety, which actually causes fewer symptoms than traditional birth control. 

Who should take the new pill? 

Progestin-only pills are recommended for women who breastfeed, are over 35 and smoke, have high blood pressure, or have a history of blood clots, have dermatitis or want to avoid the effects of estrogen. 

Is the new pill safe?

Yes. Not only has it been approved by the FDA, it’s already available–and has been for many years–in more than 100 countries around the world, including most of Asia, Latin America, and the United Kingdom.

Until OPill hits the shelves, the only forms of over-the-counter (OTC) birth control in the US are emergency contraceptives or “morning-after pills”. To receive traditional forms of hormonal birth control, American women in the US must receive a prescription from a doctor–something that requires time, an appointment, and a co-pay. 

What took so long?

Organizations like Free the Pill and Planned Parenthood have been pushing for OTC birth control options for years, which will especially help women in underprivileged areas.

We are thrilled to see the FDA follow the science and remove an unnecessary barrier to accessing basic health care,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said. 

What does this mean for Wisconsin?

Birth control is legal in all 50 states including Wisconsin, but it is not equally accessible across the state. More than 321,000 people in Wisconsin live in a ‘contraceptive desert’–with 35,000 living in a county without a single women’s health center.

While Wisconsin has slowly taken strides toward increasing access to contraception, this will be a giant leap forward. 

In the meantime, state lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. The bill has bipartisan support. If passed, Wisconsin would become the 30th state to allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives. 

In addition, the state’s Family Planning Only Services Program, run by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provides low to no-cost sexual and reproductive health care (things like birth control, pregnancy tests, and STD treatments) to people living in low-income households. 

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also helps women receive birth control by mail. Click here for more information.


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