GOP Senate candidate backs over-the-counter birth control

Zach Krahmer

A Republican congressman running for Senate is voicing support for making birth control pills available over the counter after fielding attacks over his past support for "personhood" measures.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is hoping to unseat Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in a tight race that will help determine control of the Senate, penned an op-ed Thursday saying that the change would help rural women.

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"The increase in convenience and access would aid every adult woman who uses oral contraceptives, whether it's the first time they get them or when they run out," Gardner wrote in the Denver Post.

"You might wonder why this change has not happened yet. It's because too many people in Washington would rather play politics with contraception instead of actually making life easier for women."

The bid for women's support may be an attempt at damage control after Gardner faced two attack ads criticizing his previous support for "personhood" ballot measures.

The measures, which say fertilized human eggs deserve legal rights, would outlaw abortion and several commonly used forms of birth control. Gardner said he's changed his mind about the issue after conversations with voters.

Nonetheless, Udall launched a new ad Wednesday blasting the ballot measures and calling Gardner's record "beyond troubling" and "wrong" on abortion and birth control. 

Gardner responded in a video saying he listens to constituents in deciding his views, something "Udall and President Obama can't relate to."

Shortly afterward, Planned Parenthood Votes launched its own web ad highlighting Gardner's support for federal "personhood" legislation in 2012 and 2013.

"One thing remains clear: Cory Gardner can't be trusted," the group's executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, said in a statement.

"That's why we'll be working around the clock to make sure Colorado women and families know the high stakes for women's health and rights this November."

Gardner's support for over-the-counter birth control runs contrary to how many conservatives view the issue.

Even the Obama administration resisted making emergency contraception available over the counter for several years, relenting only when ordered to by a federal judge.

Gardner noted that the American College and Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees with his view.

—Alexandra Jaffe contributed.