November 12, 2014 — Republican congressional leaders have not outlined any plans for legislation aiming to make oral contraceptives available over the counter, even though several GOP candidates campaigned on the issue during the midterm election, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 11/9).
During their election campaigns, some Republican candidates who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) framed the OTC birth control proposals as alternatives to the ACA's contraceptive coverage requirements, which they also oppose (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/11).
According to the Times, Republican Sens.-elect Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Thom Tillis (N.C), as well as Rep.-elect Barbara Comstock (Va.), touted such proposals during their campaigns.
Lack of Clear Plans
Since the election, Republican congressional leaders have not released plans to push OTC birth control legislation either in the upcoming year-end session or in the new Congress, the Times reports. While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have discussed their agendas for attempting to make changes to the ACA, their plans have not outlined any changes related to OTC contraceptives.
In addition, McConnell spokesperson Don Stewart said that the senator has not made specific plans for pushing a proposal (S 2605) he crafted with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would ask FDA to expedite a study of whether allowing OTC access to contraception is safe. However, Stewart added, "It's something our members are interested in."
Meanwhile, Gardner, Tillis and Comstock did not return calls to the Times requesting comment on the issue.
Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said if congressional Republicans "merely support an idea during a campaign but don't implement it into law, voters will not take their positions seriously in 2016."
According to Holly Lynch, executive director of the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, "The Hobby Lobby decision was what the GOP wanted -- they were thrilled. So they are happy with the status quo" (Washington Times, 11/9).