GOP senators call for over-the-counter birth control

GOP senators call for over-the-counter birth control
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Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-Colo.) is leading a new push to allow women to buy birth control without a prescription, hoping to deliver on one of the biggest promises of his freshman Senate campaign last year.

A half-dozen Senate Republicans have signed onto Gardner’s bill, which would reward drug companies that sell contraceptives to file an application to sell their products over the counter.

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“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,” Gardner wrote in a statement. He said his bill would benefit women in rural and underserved areas, while also saving people money and time by “increasing competition and availability.”

The bill would allow contraception drugs to be given priority review by the Food and Drug Administration to be considered for an over-the-counter switch. The companies would also have their filing fee waived.

The Colorado Republican’s push to make birth control available over-the-counter is not winning him more allies among women’s reproductive health groups, however.

Groups like Planned Parenthood have opposed the idea, which they argue could drive up contraception prices.

The group has pointed to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate — requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control — and said that insurers may no longer cover the medication if it’s not prescribed by a doctor.

Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, released a statement condemning Gardner’s bill shortly after he introduced it.

“Their bill does not do much to increase access to contraception — and, in fact, includes details that will take a giant step in the wrong direction,” DeFrancesco wrote.

“We cannot support a plan that creates one route to access at the expense of another, more helpful route,” he said.

Some conservatives, however, have said that the opposition from Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is actually money-related. Some have accused the groups of trying to avoid a potential scenario in which fewer women will need their services to get a prescription.

Gardner, who narrowly won his Senate race last fall, made over-the-counter contraception a key piece of his campaign against then-Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.).

Udall — who attacked his opponent so often on women’s issues that he earned the nickname, “Mark Uterus” — repeatedly accused Gardner of trying to ban access to contraception and abortions.

Weeks after Gardner was hit with his first critical ad on women’s issues, the Senate hopeful penned an op-ed in which he pledged to make birth control available without a doctor’s note.

- This post was updated Monday, June 1 at 9:14 a.m.