WASHINGTON, DC – Planned Parenthood Action Fund praised genuine efforts to expand access to birth control today, including the introduction of the “Affordability IS Access Act”, which builds on the contraception coverage required in the Affordable Care Act by allowing FDA-approved birth control pills to be made available over-the-counter, without a copay. According to a study published recently in the journal Contraception, the rate of unintended pregnancies among low-income women could drop by as much as 25 percent if birth control pills were made available over-the-counter while still being covered by insurance with no copay.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

Simply put: When we expand access to birth control, we expand women’s economic opportunity. But to be truly accessible, birth control must be affordable. That’s why Planned Parenthood, alongside leading medical experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, supports genuine efforts to make birth control available over-the-counter, and to ensure that it’s covered without a copay.

We’re thrilled to have this bill introduced by Senator Murray, stalwart champion for women's health — to expand over-the-counter access to birth control and make sure it’s affordable for all women. As a result of increased access to birth control, women’s lives have changed dramatically in the U.S. Access to birth control is a key factor in women becoming the majority of colleges graduates in this country and women starting to narrow the wage gap.”

Quick Facts:

  • Without insurance coverage, birth control pills can cost up to $600 a year, out of reach for many women already struggling.
  • Thanks to the birth control benefit, more than 55 million women are now eligible for prescription birth control without a copay. In the first year, American women and families saved $483 million on birth control pill prescriptions alone thanks to this benefit.
  • Leading medical experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) believe birth control pills should be available without a prescription over-the-counter, but only if they continue to be fully covered by insurance.  
  • The decision to bring birth control over-the-counter should be left to the medical experts and scientists at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which is what this bill would do.

Bill Background:

The Affordability IS Access Act introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and other women’s health champions would expand access to birth control by encouraging the availability of over-the-counter birth control pills while also ensuring access to  insurance coverage of birth control with no out-of-pocket costs. This important legislation recognizes that in order to increase women’s access to oral contraceptives, it must be both easier to obtain and afford. This legislation makes clear that the determination as to whether a drug should be available for use without a prescription is appropriately and solely made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and when a birth control product is made available over-the-counter, it should be covered by health insurance, without a prescription and without out-of-pocket costs, as already required by current law.  Women already paying for health insurance that includes birth control should not have to pay again when obtaining the birth control pill over-the-counter.

How does the Affordability IS Access Act help more women gain access to birth control?

1.     Ensures that coverage of comprehensive preventive health services includes full access to oral contraception for routine, daily over-the-counter use for all women. All private health insurance plans are now required to cover all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception. The Act would ensure coverage of all oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use obtained without a prescription. 

2.     Maintains the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety, quality, and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription.  It is imperative that the entities that research and develop oral contraceptives, and whose medical and scientific experts have developed clinical and other evidence that birth control pills are safe and effective for women when sold without a prescription, apply to the FDA for review and approval for sale without a prescription. 

Upon the receipt of such an application, the FDA must determine whether the contraceptive product meets the rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality standards for over-the-counter use, as established by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  If the product meets these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay.  

3.     Ensures retailers provide oral contraception without a prescription.  The Act requires any retailer that stocks oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.