New Jersey plans over-the-counter hormonal contraception for 2024

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that hormonal contraception will be available in the state without a doctor’s prescription starting in 2024.

The news comes after both the State Medical Board of Examiners and the State Board of Pharmacy approved rules for the over-the-counter distribution of hormonal birth control. The guidelines were established as part of the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which Murphy signed into law in January.  

The governor made his announcement at a press conference in which he touted the change as a victory for reproductive rights. 

“New Jersey is and New Jersey always will be a safe haven for reproductive health care, period. We’re going to ensure that our daughters do not inherit a world in which they have fewer rights than their parents did,” Murphy said. “We’re going to stand united and say ‘hell no’ to a right-wing movement that is hellbent on ripping away our fundamental freedoms.”

Jackie Cornell, executive director for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, praised the announcement. ”Reproductive freedom is under attack. And that is not hyperbole,” Cornell said. “New Jersey continues to be a beacon of hope for all.”

Though activists praise the news, there is plenty of evidence that hormonal birth control is not beneficial for women. It comes with a number of risks, including blood clots, depression, suicide, heart attack, stroke, infertility, and more. 

One study out of Denmark found that women taking the combined oral contraceptive birth control were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, while those using progestin-only pills were 34% more likely to be diagnosed with depression. The risks are even higher for teenage girls; those on combined oral contraception were at an 80% increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. Another study from the University of Copenhagen found that women using hormonal birth control had triple the risk of suicide over women who were not using it. 

When birth control is available directly over the counter, there is no physician oversight to monitor the patient’s health or assess her for risk factors. Requiring a prescription for hormonal birth control isn’t an attempt to limit women’s freedom — it’s merely a safeguard to protect the health and well-being of the woman using it. Without these safeguards, the health of New Jersey’s women may now be in greater jeopardy. 

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