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Women’s health Chumps like Cory Gardner from Colorado and Thom Tillis from North Carolina are suddenly super into making birth control pills available without a prescription. Gee, getting contraceptives over-the-counter sure sounds great. And that’s just what they want you to think.

The reality is these politicians are longtime opponents of women’s health whose records are clear — they’ve consistently sought to limit women’s access to affordable birth control. This mushrooming trend of over-the-counter proposals are part of their larger effort to take away insurance coverage for contraception and make women pay hundreds of dollars a year on their prescriptions. Unfortunately for them, their positions (and record) aren’t popular with voters in their states.

Since their positions are so unpopular with voters in their states, it’s obvious why they’re trying to confuse voters by masking their real agenda: to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), take away the no-copay birth control coverage that is already available to more than 48 million women nationwide, and force women to ONCE AGAIN pay out-of-pocket for all birth control.

Well guess what: Not on our watch. And we have a feeling the 57 percent of women voters who say they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposes allowing employers like Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover birth control will have a BIG problem with it too. Here are the top four facts you need to know about the recent rash of pitches to make the pill over-the-counter.

1. Over-the-counter vs. full coverage: The politicians who are pitching over-the-counter birth control want to repeal the ACA and take away all the newly affordable options that women have gained from its preventive care benefit.

There’s a reason that the ACA requires all insurance companies to cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods without copay: the Institute of Medicine recommends it, and so do leading women’s health providers like Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But the over-the-counter proposals ignore all that medical stuff. Using the “one size fits all” approach to complex medical needs, the proposals only apply to one form of contraception: the pill.

Under the ACA, many women access a variety of contraception methods, such as IUDs — which are covered at no copay under the preventive benefit. But the form of birth control pill likely to become available over the counter may not be the best option for an individual woman. What’s more, many women do not use the pill and some of the most effective methods need to be inserted by a trained health care provider. You couldn’t get an IUD inserted over the counter now, could you? But if that’s the best method that works for you, you’re out of luck.

2.  Skipping One Prescription vs. Paying Hundreds More Per Year: Their plan would cost an individual woman up to $600 more per year in out-of-pocket costs — and force women across the country to foot the bill for a $483 million dollar tax on birth control. 

The reality is that these proposals would actually force women to ONCE AGAIN pay out-of-pocket for the birth control that they are getting now at no cost. Worse, women would likely face additional cost barriers since health plans generally do not cover such products without a prescription.  

The high out-of-pocket costs add up: Birth control can cost upwards of $600 a year for an individual woman — that’s equal to nine tanks of gas in a minivan. On a large scale, the figures are even more daunting: American women across the country would pay $483 million more per year on birth control that would otherwise have been covered by the ACA. It’s a veritable birth control tax on women.

What’s all this, really? It is part of an ongoing effort by some politicians to take away birth control coverage. The politicians pushing this are the same ones who are trying to get rid of the birth control benefit entirely, which would prevent many women from being able to afford birth control. 

3. Lip Service vs. Reality: Their plan is a smokescreen for their awful record on women’s health and rights. 

Here’s how we know that the recent over-the-counter birth control proposals from the Right are simply attempts to muddy the waters on politicians’ unpopular positions on women’s health: The guys who are proposing to move select forms of birth control over-the-counter — including U.S. Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina— are the same politicians who are trying to make access to birth control harder. That is what makes this empty gesture especially insulting to women. 

Look no further than the poll numbers to understand why these politicians are, out of the blue, calling for birth control over the counter:

  • NBC News poll numbers show that a full 70 percent of Colorado voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who wants to restrict access to birth control.
  • A Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows that women’s health Champ Sen. Kay Hagan is leading Thom Tillis by 18 points among women voters. 

If these politicians were serious about expanding access to birth control, they wouldn’t be trying to repeal the no-copay birth control benefit or cut women off from Planned Parenthood’s preventive health services. That’s how we know it’s just a ploy to whitewash their terrible records and agenda for women's health. 

What’s more, their opponents Senator Kay Hagan and Mark Udall have been steadfast supporters of women’s health and are actively working to protect the birth control benefit to ensure all women can have access without politicians or bosses getting in the way. 

4. Did we hear an echo? Oh yeah. That’s the hollow promise of their plan.

Leading women’s health experts (and Planned Parenthood) agree that some forms of birth control should be made available over the counter. But here’s why the sudden rash of proposals on over-the-counter birth control are so obviously empty gestures: There is not a single manufacturer that has submitted an application to the FDA to make its birth control available over the counter. 

So, the proposals have no teeth behind them. They’re just masquerading as solutions, distracting women from the real fight: keeping our birth control benefits.

Women should not have to trade affordable access to all forms of birth control in order to have improved access to some forms of birth control. But we are watching. And we vote.

Tags: Thom Tillis, Obamacare, ACA, Cory Gardner, birth control

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