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Women's Health Groups Respond to Conservatives' Claims on Over-The-Counter Birth Control

Women's Health Groups Respond to Conservatives' Claims on Over-The-Counter Birth Control

September 11, 2014 — Women's health groups are speaking out against proposals that some conservatives claim will expand access to contraception, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports.

According to "Capsules," at least four Republican candidates for Senate who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) -- Ed Gillespie in Virginia, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Mike McFadden in Minnesota -- have proposed in recent weeks that oral contraceptives should be available without a prescription. They have framed the proposals as alternatives to the ACA's contraceptive coverage requirements, which they also oppose.

For example, Tillis in a debate with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) last week said that if oral contraceptives are made available without a prescription, "you will actually increase the access and reduce the barriers for having more options for women for contraception." Similarly, Gardner said that he would like to make birth control pills available without a prescription while ensuring that women with insurance coverage can still be reimbursed, although he has not detailed an implementation strategy.

Planned Parenthood, ACOG Respond

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a CNN opinion piece countered the candidates' claims that such proposals would lower costs and improve access (Rovner, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 9/10). When "health insurance doesn't cover birth control and women have to pay out of pocket at the drugstore, it won't expand access to birth control but shrink it," she wrote.

Richards cited figures from HHS estimating that women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs for oral contraceptives in 2013 because the federal contraceptive coverage rules eliminated copayments for the prescriptions (Richards, CNN, 9/9).

Separately, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists President John Jennings noted in a statement that while ACOG supports making birth control pills available over the counter, the issue "should not be used as a political tool by candidates or by elected officials."

Jennings added that "OTC access to contraceptives should be part of a broader dialogue about improving women's health care, preventing unintended pregnancies, and increasing use of contraception" ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 9/10).