Several countries, such as Japan, the Philippines, Mexico, Spain, and many Latin American countries allow women to buy birth control pills over the counter without a doctor's appointment.
In the UK, you can get the contraceptive pill via a GP (General Practitioner) or Practice Nurse at your local doctor's surgery. They will provide a free prescription and you then obtain the pill from a chemist. You can also go to a Family Planning Clinic for free.
(Updated with info from @quinnlou) In Ireland it used to be that you couldn''t get a prescription from a doctor but had to visit a Family Planning Clinic or Woman's Centre but a GP can now help. You still take the prescription to the chemist.
In France, you need to see a doctor or gynaecologist to get a prescription. It's paid for as are other contraceptive methods.
In Germany, a women needs to see an independent gynaecologist, not their local doctor as they don't usually prescribe contraception. Health insurance covers the examination which is always necessary and if you are older than 18, and not on benefits, you have to pay for the pill.
In Belgium a woman needs a prescription from a doctor or gynaecologist to start on the pill and for regular check-ups although a prescription can be for a year's supply or more. The costs vary: if you're under 18 it's free, if under 25 it's discounted. All others pay a certain amount and the rest of the price is paid by health insurance.
In Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, you see a GP, get a prescription and go to the chemist. It's not free although about half of the cost is covered by government/national health service.
In Italy, this report suggests you can buy the pill over the counter without a prescription. Yet, a friend based in Milan has to go to her local hospital and attend the same clinic as pregnant women which some may say is an attempt to encourage birth control in itself.
In Canada, a woman needs to see a doctor or a clinic to get a prescription. The pill is not available over the counter.
What we can see from this research is that many women need to see a doctor to obtain the pill and it's a matter for discussion whether a smear/pap test is truly necessary at every repeat prescription appointment as it may not be beneficial for the patient's health but simply tick boxes for government quotas and drug company requirements. Regular health checks are, of course, needed for ongoing monitoring of any medication but as this article rightly says:
" Basically, there is no real risk of drug abuse, an overdose is more likely to result in vomiting than any kind of high, and most of the side effects are not serious. This leads many to argue whether or not the government has a legitimate role in imposing on women the added cost associated by maintaining the pill's prescription status, not to mention creating a significant barrier to its access."
I've not found any accurate information on how women access the pill in Asia or Africa but it would be interesting to compare. Do note, this isn't a medical advice site so do ask a medically-trained professional for your individual contraception requirements.
Image credits: Ceridwen & Wikimedia Commons.