Sens. Cory Gardner and Kelly Ayotte Push Bill For Over-the-Counter Birth Control

file photo of birth control pills.

Cory Gardner and Kelly Ayotte are pushing joint legislation that would incentivize drug companies that manufacture “routine-use contraceptives” to apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a switch to over-the-counter (OTC) sales.

According to a press release last week, the “Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act” would encourage contraceptive drug manufacturers to file for a “prescription-to-over-the-counter switch by allowing for priority review of the application and waiving the FDA filing fee.”

The measure provides for incentives to drug companies for any contraceptive available to adults aged 18 and above, which is deemed “safe and effective for routine OTC use” by the FDA.

The bill would also repeal Obamacare’s restrictions on consumer use of health, medical and flexible savings accounts for the purchase of OTC drugs, thus further enabling the purchase of OTC contraceptives with these types of savings accounts. Additionally, the legislation would repeal Obamacare’s annual limits on flexible savings account contributions.

“It’s time to allow women the ability to make their own decisions about safe, effective, and long-established methods of contraception,” Gardner said.

“Most other drugs with such a long history of safe and routine use are available for purchase over the counter, and contraception should join them,” he added. “Making this medication available over the counter would increase access in rural and underserved areas, save consumers money by increasing competition and availability, and save women time by increasing the ease of getting the safe contraception they need.”

“Our legislation will help increase women’s access to safe and effective contraceptives and further empower women to make their own health care decisions,” adds Ayotte. “In addition, our bill restores the ability of Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts to be used to purchase over-the-counter medications, giving women more purchasing power.”

Sens. Dean Heller, Joni Ernst, Richard Burr, Ron Johnson, and Thom Tillis are co-sponsoring the legislation.

During their campaigns for the U.S. Senate last year, Gardner and Tillis provoked the ire of abortion heavyweights NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Emily’s List by turning the tables on Democrats who are eager to cast Republican candidates as members of the “war on women” brigade who would repeal Obamacare and take away “free” birth control for women.

Gardner and Tillis responded by advocating for OTC birth control – available without a prescription and, consequently, without Obamacare providing it. The two candidates presented the economic argument that birth control pills could be even more accessible – and less expensive – if women could purchase them without having to obtain a doctor’s prescription. Obamacare’s requirement of full coverage of birth control in health insurance plans requires a prescription and, as a result, would keep the cost of the contraceptives rising for taxpayers who foot the bill for the “free” birth control.

Since pro-abortion groups are reaping many benefits from Obamacare’s so-called “free” contraceptives, the argument presented by Gardner and Tillis sent them into a tailspin, and when the two Republicans won their Senate races, the wounded organizations said they would hold them accountable to their stance of making birth control available over the counter.

While the economic argument of lowering costs of contraceptives by having them available over-the-counter may carry weight, the choice of which oral contraceptives are “safe and effective for routine OTC use” is an issue that may need to be addressed.

As Breitbart News reported in April, Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), observed that “a link exists between hormonal contraception and breast cancer.”

“The World Health Organization declared forms of birth control pills…as Group I carcinogens–and it makes biological sense,” she added.

Additionally, a recent study published by the journal Human Brain Mapping, found the use of the combination form of birth control pills to be associated with significantly lower cortical thickness in certain brain structures believed to be important in the response to emotional stimuli.

The authors of the study noted that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oral contraceptives “are used by the majority of women in the United States for at least one period of time during their reproductive years and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for pediatric use” after the onset of the first menstrual period.

“Some women experience negative emotional side effects from taking oral contraceptive pills, although the scientific findings investigating that have been mixed,” the study’s co-author, Nicole Petersen, a neuroscientist at UCLA, recently told The Huffington Post. “So it’s possible that this change in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex may be related to the emotional changes that some women experience when using birth control pills.”

Perhaps the reaction of study co-author Larry Cahill of the University of California-Irvine was most revealing, when he told Catholic News Agency he was amazed at the lack of research on birth control pills, considering they have been taken by many women for half a century to prevent pregnancy.

“You might think after 50 years and hundreds of millions of women taking various incarnations of the pill, there would be a large and cohesive and impressive body of evidence on it, but there’s next to nothing,” he said. “I honestly find that amazing.”


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