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There's no good reason why the pill shouldn't be available over the counter

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I don't want a baby. I don't think that's a controversial stance at this point, given I'm 20 years old and, unlike Kylie Jenner, don't have my own house and an outrageously wealthy family to back me up.

So you can imagine my annoyance when I visited my local pharmacist on a recent morning for a repeat of my contraceptive pill, only to be turned away on a technicality. The only copy I had of my prescription was on my phone, which meant, according to the pharmacist, that I could be (and I quote) "waving the same copy around all over town", buying hordes of contraceptives for some kind of underground drug ring. Obviously.

After a frustrating half-hour of patiently trying to explain that all I wanted were regular periods and a long fruitful youth, I left empty-handed, wondering to myself something I'm sure all women wonder at some point in their lives: why can't the pill just be another over-the-counter drug?

Requiring a prescription on a regular basis is a huge time commitment. Every time I need it renewed, I have to book a doctor's appointment, which either means waiting a week for my usual GP or going to a walk-in clinic, which incurs sign-up fees and extensive paperwork.

The bad news for working women or students is that these clinics are usually only open nine-to-five, meaning compromises must be made, unless you want to sit in your own breakthrough bleeding until your schedule frees up. This is precisely why many women don't take the pill in the first place, and rely instead on other, arguably worse, contraceptive methods, like condoms, pulling out, or the emergency contraceptive – which is ironically over-the-counter despite just being a higher concentration of the same hormones.

I would understand the argument that the health risks of the pill were too great to warrant an over-the-counter transaction, if that were the case – but a little research shows this is not so. The chances of blood clotting are lower than the chances of actually falling pregnant on the pill – both well below 1 percent. There are other over-the-counter drugs that pose far more dangerous side effects, not to mention cigarettes and other objectively harmful, yet perfectly accessible, substances.

Nevertheless, it would be simple enough to have a similar screening process to the morning after pill – a short conversation with the pharmacist, maybe some paperwork – as is the case in a growing number of states in the US, including Oregon, California and Washington, as well as other developed countries around the globe.

Australia is, for the most part, fairly progressive in its treatment of sexual health. This is the natural next step in that progression. It's time to reopen the conversation around female contraception – for a whole host of reasons, but mostly so that young women like me don't have to sit around waiting for doctor's appointments, just because we don't want babies.

Eleanor Kirk is an Age contributor.

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