Republican Proposals for Over-the-Counter Birth Control
It’s no surprise that in the waning days of the election, the Republican Party is trying to rewrite its position on women. After all, their own public opinion research shows women voters find the party “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.” But some 2014 Republican Senate candidates’ newly found support for making birth control available over the counter instead of under the Affordable Care Act without a co-pay is at worst a badly disguised attempt to find yet another route to attack Obamacare, and at best, a convenient election-time Etch-a-Sketch from men who have supported bills to block access to them in the past.
Making birth control available without a prescription and at cost won’t make it easier for women to afford contraception. One in three women report having struggled to afford it before the ACA. In fact, it would actually make it harder for women to access the most effective types of birth control, like the IUD, which has a hefty upfront price tag that is cost-prohibitive for many women and can’t be sold over the counter because it requires a doctor’s visit. This means that proposals to allow contraception to be sold over the counter—if we repeal its current coverage as a preventive service without co-pay—would effectively discourage using the very types of contraception that work the best.
Women should be able to choose the health care that works best for them without having to worry about what kind is cheapest or whether the type they need is available over the counter. Access to all types of FDA-approved birth control without co-pay is something folks on both ends of the political spectrum should support, because in addition to being best for women, it will reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country. No-cost contraception has been shown to decrease abortion rates by up to 78%.
If Republicans are sincere in their election-eve desire to expand access to birth control, there’s no reason it can’t be available under health insurance plans for no cost with a prescription and also available over the counter at market price—we already do that with several other drugs, including aspirin and Plan B. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s on the table. Limiting birth control to only be available over the counter will cost women more money, reduce their options, and make it harder to access the most effective methods that reduce the need for abortion in this country.