Democrats introduce bill to make birth control available over-the-counter

Packs of birth control pills
Congressional Democrats introduced legislation in both chambers Thursday to require insurance to cover any birth control pills approved by the Food and Drug Administration and available over-the-counter without a prescription. (Getty/areeya_ann)

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation in both chambers Thursday to require insurance to cover any birth control pills approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and to make them available over-the-counter without a prescription

The measure is sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, who is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, who is chairwoman of the Abortion Access Task Force. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Ami Bera, D-California, and Katie Hill, D-California, introduced the Affordability is Access Act (AAA).

The move is meant to expand access to affordable birth control pills and stands in contrast to the Trump administration's move to cut back Title X funding to certain facilities, which opponents say has reduced funding for crucial family planning programs. 

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RELATED: Trump administration revisits moral and religious exemptions for birth control coverage

“Women seeking contraceptive care shouldn’t find they have to pay extra, ask permission or hurdle barriers put up by politicians who think their ideology is more important than a woman’s personal health care decisions,” Murray said in a statement. “While President Trump and Vice President Pence have been focused on putting up barriers and making it harder for women to get the care they need, I’m fighting to tear them down and pushing for steps like this legislation to make it easier for all women to access affordable birth control.”

Bera is a physician and said that is part of why she supports the measure.

"Access to affordable contraception is critical for women’s reproductive health. It enables women to live healthier lives and enhances their economic security,” Bera said in a statement. “I am proud to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation, which is in stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine women’s health care and roll back access to birth control. We must all fight to ensure women have access to quality, affordable healthcare—including access to full reproductive health services.”

The FDA would retain sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and to make them available over-the-counter without a prescription, officials said in a release about the measure.

RELATED: Dual rulings block Trump administration on birth control coverage nationwide

The legislation has been endorsed by the National Women's Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Civil Liberties Union, Physicians for Reproductive Health and Power to Decide.

It may also have some support from Republicans—or at least from one very notable Republican: Texas Senator Ted Cruz. After Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the bill earlier on Thursday, Cruz signaled his support for the measure in a tweet. 

 

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