It’s starting to take shape. One high-profile example is Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner actively campaigning on over-the-counter contraception:
Other Republicans are taking similar positions. Byron York names names:
The idea is to make the birth control pill available over the counter, to all, 24/7, without a prescription. It’s becoming a trend among Republican candidates in Senate races around the country. In North Carolina, GOP candidate Thom Tillis recently embraced it. So has Ed Gillespie in Virginia. Mike McFadden in Minnesota. Gardner in Colorado. And one of the leading proponents of the move is a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Kilgore understands the political logic of this move:
There’s no question it’s clever—even sort of a threefer: (1) taking The Pill out of the Rx drug equation protects those “pharmacists of conscience” who don’t want to fill prescriptions if they don’t approve of the marital status or lifestyles of the women involved; (2) it also makes the fight against Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate less portentous and controversial; and (3) most obviously, lets Republicans claim a “centrist” position on reproductive rights: pro-contraception, anti-abortion.
But he rejects the idea that Republicans now “have the high ground on reproductive rights.” Rebecca Leber agrees with that:
For some time, some doctors and reproductive health advocates have argued that an over-the-counter pill is good policy, because it would make the pill easily accessible to more women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed it in 2012, and so do two-thirds of American women polled.
But there’s a catch. Doctors aren’t the only hurdle between women and contraceptive access. For low-income women, cost can be what’s most prohibitive. Under the Affordable Care Act, the pill and other forms of contraception count as preventative care, which means insurance covers them completely—without any out-of-pocket expenses. This is not a position the Republicans have endorsed.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown counters such arguments:
[A]ffordability isn’t the only factor in making something accessible. Those championing the contraception mandate as a way to increase access assume everyone always has insurance coverage. What about undocumented women? Or those between jobs and temporarily uninsured? What about young women who can’t let their parents know they’re on the pill? Or domestic abuse victims who want to keep this information from their husbands? These are just a few of the situations in which a woman would find OTC pills much more accessible and affordable than the prescription-only kind, even if those prescription pills came with no co-pay.
It’s one thing for progressives to question the sincerity of support that male GOP politicians have for OTC birth control (some of it’s definitely a bit suspect), but trying to diminish the good OTC birth control could do in order to prop up Obamacare’s contraception mandate is inexcusable. Those who claim they want to increase contraception access while panning OTC birth control entirely look a lot more like partisan hacks than people with women’s best interests in mind.
Previous Dish on the OTC pill here.