DENVER – Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner this week made good on a campaign promise to introduce legislation that would encourage the sale of birth control over the counter.
But groups from the pro-choice world are skeptical, suggesting the move stemmed from a campaign ploy after Gardner was criticized for supporting federal “personhood,” or assigning constitutional rights to the unborn.
The legislation aims to encourage manufacturers of certain contraceptives, such as “the pill,” to apply for over-the-counter classification with the Food and Drug Administration by allowing a priority review and waiving filing fees. It also would repeal a provision of the Affordable Care Act that restricts the use of health, medical and flexible-savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter drugs without a prescription.
“It’s time to allow women the ability to make their own decisions about safe, effective and long-established methods of contraception,” Gardner said in a statement. “Most other drugs with such a long history of safe and routine use are available for purchase over the counter, and contraception should join them.”
The Yuma Republican touted the plan on the campaign trail last year when he faced off against then-incumbent Mark Udall, a Democrat. The move came as Gardner was criticized for supporting federal personhood legislation, which many feared would ban common forms of birth control.
Gardner said at the time that he did not support a nearly identical ballot initiative in Colorado that would have created personhood, yet he remained a sponsor of the federal proposal.
Pro-choice groups worry that Gardner’s proposal would actually take away coverage for birth control, pointing to the provision that would repeal a portion of the Affordable Care Act. The section of the ACA requires insurance plans to cover all FDA approved methods of contraception at no additional cost. Several forms of birth control are now offered free to women as part of their insurance plans under the ACA.
“With this legislation, he’s trying to limit women’s access to contraception by undermining the Affordable Care Act and double-billing them, first for insurance, then for full retail cost of their birth control,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “This adds up to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars many women don’t have in their budget – and if birth control isn’t affordable, it isn’t accessible.”
Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado called the proposal an “insult to women,” highlighting that birth control is currently free to many.
“Senator Gardner pretends he is expanding access to birth control when in reality he doesn’t make birth control more affordable, doesn’t expand the availability of IUDs and other effective methods,” said Cathy Alderman, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado. “He has joined other senators who have long histories of opposing access to contraception in trying to pass sham legislation.”