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Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:24PM - 215 Views

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WASHINGTON — No prescription or doctor's exam needed: The nation's largest group of obstetricians and gynecologists says birth control pills should be sold over the counter, like condoms.


But no one expects the pill to be sold without a prescription any time soon: A company would have to seek government permission first, and it's not clear if any are considering it. Plus there are big questions about what such a move would mean for many women's wallets if it were no longer covered by insurance.


Still, momentum may be building.


Already, anyone 17 or older doesn't need to see a doctor before buying the morning-after pill — a higher-dose version of regular birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken shortly after unprotected sex. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration held a meeting to gather ideas about how to sell regular oral contraceptives without a prescription, too.


Now the influential American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is declaring it's safe to sell the pill that way.


Half of the nation's pregnancies every year are unintended, a rate that hasn't changed in 20 years — and easier access to birth control pills could help, said Dr. Kavita Nanda, an OB/GYN who co-authored the opinion for the doctors group.


It's unfortunate that in this country where we have all these contraceptive methods available, unintended pregnancy is still a major public health problem, said Nanda, a scientist with the North Carolina nonprofit FHI 360, formerly known as Family Health International.


Many women have trouble affording a doctor's visit, or getting an appointment in time when their pills are running low — which can lead to skipped doses, Nanda added.


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