Jindal Gets it Wrong on Hormonal Contraceptives

By Jedediah Bila

In The Wall Street Journal last week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal argued for the over-the-counter sale of oral contraceptives in the United States, no prescription required.

He writes:

As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control.

I agree with Jindal on one point: Conservatives and Republicans have allowed the Left to demagogue the issue of contraceptives. During the 2012 presidential campaign, the Left falsely painted many pro-contraception Republicans as anti-contraception, fueling the fabricated “war on women” narrative. The same thing happened in 2008, when Sarah Palin was painted as an anti-contraception “extremist,” despite her support for access to contraception.

However, winning the narrative on contraceptives should involve proper messaging and messengers, not turning hormonal contraceptives–with their many potentially serious side effects–into over-the-counter products.

Jindal writes:

Let’s ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.

Jindal ignores the reasons many women should–and do–see doctors before buying oral contraceptives. Birth control pills vary in chemical components. Each brand and/or formulation alters a woman’s chemical body composition differently and has the potential to affect one’s body and mind in a different way. Many women must go through numerous trial and error courses before finding a pill whose benefit outweighs its side-effect cost. In the process, one often has some serious side effects that can and should be monitored by a physician.

Also, many women seek out hormonal contraceptives to treat a wide range of physical ailments, not simply (or sometimes at all) for pregnancy prevention. A doctor’s input with respect to what pills have proven better than others at addressing patient-specific problems is highly valuable.

Hormonal contraceptives cannot and should not be likened to condoms. Condoms are an external barrier to disease and pregnancy. Hormonal contraceptives chemically alter a woman’s body. Potential side effects include anything from vomiting to depression to hair loss to a rise in blood pressure, among others. People with certain pre-existing conditions and/or habits–like a history of blood clots or smoking–may be discouraged by doctors from taking hormonal contraceptives because they may be potentially predisposed to serious risks.

Do you think kids wouldn’t more easily get their hands on over-the-counter contraceptives? I taught kids for years and assure you that many would. Do you think those same kids would always be diligent about reading warning labels and avoiding lifestyle habits that may increase the pill’s potential for serious side effects? Many would not.

Let me share some personal experience. I took hormonal contraceptives for medical reasons for eight years, beginning at the age of nineteen. It took me four rounds of different pills to find one that didn’t make me physically and/or emotionally sick to my stomach. I went through months of horrific side effects that were thankfully supervised by a doctor’s care. If I was careless and missed pills, I felt sick. With my doctor’s help, I finally found the right match, but it hadn’t been easy. My body and mind had been taxed.

Luckily, I was finally able to find nutritional ways to get my body on track without synthetic hormones, but my memory of those challenging days remains quite clear.

Jindal also writes:

Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription.

I would argue that no hormonally-loaded concoction (some morning-after pills are just that) should be administered as an over-the-counter, medically-unsupervised product. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I appreciate Jindal’s desire to own the narrative on contraceptives, but this isn’t how you do it. Treating all hormonal contraceptives like a one-size-fits-all product and/or advocating the over-the-counter sale of dangerous hormonal concoctions isn’t the answer.

A wide range of doctor-prescribed medicines are not available over the counter for good reason. Hormonal contraceptives–and their potentially serious side effects–should not be taken lightly.

I support access to birth control pills, but am also aware from personal experience that these are serious drugs that alter one’s body chemistry. Shifting them to over-the-counter status could potentially have very dangerous consequences.

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John Nosser

I hope in the future Governor Jindal’s arguments will be better thought out. There is no way Hormonal Contraceptives could be made over-the-counter without endangering the users. The potential for harming health is too great without a doctor’s prescription. Only a doctor can know through cautious testing what hormonal contraceptive is suitable for his patient. Individuals cannot be allowed to make that decision for themselves, they don’t have the knowledge. These drugs are not aspirin. I am not against contraceptives per se, but I am against immorality. I am also very strongly against people wanting someone else to pay to support their immoral activities. They should pay for it themselves!

Jack C. Pickard

Jedediah well written and based on reasonable research, hopefully you will stay in the business of sharing the truth. I would additionally say that I am concerned about the long term effects of Hormonal Concoctions of any type, like one of your other readers I understand the carsenogen effect is equal to two packs a day of unfiltered cigerettes (one study); that is not very old states. More research is needed to quantify the real dangers or effects of these types of birth control, but definitely Doctors should not be removed from this discussion as long as there are so many life threatning side effects in these products. As far as our government paying for this product for people that can afford it … definitely not!

John Robben

Great article leading us in the right direction, but repsectfully it doesn’t quite go far enough. Many have pointed out the very serious risks of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. I’ve seen the results of a 20 year old suffering a stroke related to hormonal contraceptives – tragic. Furthermore, most women don’t realize that the World Health Organization has named the birth control pill a Group 1 Carcinogen, similar to radiation and cigarettes. This should be headline news. I doubt that many doctors even explain this. Why are we putting so many women at risk?


Still, the most effective contraceptive is an asperin…held firmly between the woman’s knees. Trouble is, it takes a fair amount of faith to hold it there. Seems faith is in short supply these days.


The issue is not contraceptives. The issue is the government mandating that companies pay for it. Faith and religion are not the issue. The issue is that the federal government should have no authority to mandate that companies ,or we as tax payers pay for it. In other words, get the government out of our pockets. Birth control and contraception are personal and family issues, not an issue for the government or the courts.

Joe L.

Politicians who don’t know the science should refrain from any medical discussion. Turns out that the libs (and even conservative talk show hosts and some well-meaning politicians) turned the religious liberty debate into a contraception debate. You see where that got us.

All need to realize that hormones are found in high dosages in the “morning after” preparations and when used according to directions it is highly probable that they work as chemical abortafacients –these clearly are not “just” contraceptives.

The same thing is happening today with the gun control discussion…..the point is being lost. Our problem is the a-religious, crumbling family, culture of voilence and death. Address only guns, and there will be no gain.


It is so unfortunate that the conservative voice is being undermined by ignorance. These people need to be informed before spouting off on things they don’t understand. Jindal is already under attack for Creationism being taught (which is ok with me). The idea of every regulation, especially regarding safety issues, is bad, is going to gut the Republican Party and the valid causes it supports if they are not more careful in the claims they make, such as this one.


This is just a reflection of what is a serious problem in Washington.
Politician are making laws for businesses when they have never ran a business. There are laws on the environment that ignore what scientist say.
We have people voting on fiscal matters who have problems with their own taxes.
Now they are managing health care and telling doctors what to do.
The whole thing is Scary, if you ask me.

Michael Duncan

Thank you, again, for a fantastic point of view. Oral contraceptive medication is not like taking a Tylenol. My wife suffered serious side-effects (emotional and physical) because of taking “the pill.” I understand Governor Jindal’s point, but I believe doctors need to maintain prescriptive control of contraceptive medications – all contraceptive medications.


As stated in your second comment, one of the disastrous complications from this hormone therapy can be a stroke…clotting and therefore blocking of blood vessel(s) in the brain. This is particularly tragic if it occurs in a young woman/girl with that abnormal absence of a standard anti-clotting factor in the blood. If someone follows what the gov said, and develops a stroke, could he be sued for malpractice/ Or for practicing medicine without a license?

Len Bliss

It is time we have more scientist in Congress. Can you believe some moron wants Americans to self- medicate with powerful hormones? Has history taught us nothing? In addition to the fact that a doctor needs to use all at his disposal to arrive at the best and safest prescription, now we expect patients to select the one that is safe without his knowledge. Are you serious? It is difficult enough to control the drug market with all our safeguards to prevent serious consequences. Remember Thalidomide? The biggest scandal with drug side effects resulted in more deformed babies, ever! Leave medicine to the doctors. Leave science to the scientist. I am equally appalled to know that our energy policy overlooks the simplest solutions. Everyone debates the use of fossil fuels to provide our energy demands. They do not understand that fossil fuels are limited. We have maybe on earth a… Read more »


Fighting the battle against ignorance and misunderstanding. There is a lot of I&M these days. Thank you for being there. See ya tonight.

Ralph Litten

Both my wife and I are pro life. Just the same my wife has used contraceptive pills under a doctors prescription. Even at that my wife experienced five strokes which left her with brain damage. During the last stroke her neurologist finally found the problem, hormonal pills being taken for the change of life which when combined with an inherited condition called Lydon Factor Five (spelling) let her blood get so thick it wouldn’t pump, hence strokes. Absolutely the contraceptive pills should remain under a doctors prescription control.


Very enlightening. I thought Jindal was on the right track. Thank you JB


I agree 100%.


Excellent column.