Michael P. Norton
BOSTON – Citing the threat of Republicans curbing access to birth control, Democrats in Washington introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at ensuring access to an over-the-counter birth control option once the FDA approves it.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Boston is among the Democrats behind the Affordability is Access Act (AAA), which would ensure that once the Food and Drug Administration determines that an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, it approves it without delay.
The bill would further require insurers nationwide to cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs.
“As everyone knows right now the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said during a virtual event to highlight the bill. “Republicans are weeks away from fulfilling their decades-long goal of ending a constitutional right to abortion. It is cruel, and it is outrageous. And mark my words, Republican lawmakers here in Congress and in states across our country are not going to stop at abortion. They are coming after your birth control too. The reality is that Republicans are working around the clock to make it harder to get reproductive health care that makes sure everyone has full control of their own bodies and can plan if and when to have a family on their own terms.”
While people right now need a prescription from their doctor to get birth control, Murray said “that is likely to change in the future” and said the bill aims to ensure widespread access to birth control and affordability.
State representatives in Idaho are going to hold a hearing on banning forms of birth control, Murray said.
Louisiana lawmakers advanced a bill to outlaw forms of birth control, she added, and GOP senators in Washington are saying Griswold vs. Connecticut, which established the right to birth control in 1965, was “wrongly decided.”
Pressley said that “access to contraception is in no way a substitute for abortion care,” but “we know that birth control plays a critical role in supporting people as they exercise their reproductive freedom.” She said that while the Affordable Care Act mandates contraception coverage, one in three women of reproductive age continue to face “obstacles” to prescription birth control and millions of people lack any insurance coverage.
In November of 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a state law that requires health insurance plans to cover most types of oral contraception without co-pays and mandates insurance coverage for emergency contraception at pharmacies. That law, which also allows women to fill prescriptions for birth control for 12 months at a time, gained momentum on Beacon Hill following President Donald Trump’s executive order making it easier for companies to opt out of covering birth control on religious or moral grounds.