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Letter: Group offering ‘smart policy’ on birth control misses the mark

From Dr. Haywood L. Brown, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

A recent “smart policy” opinion piece on access to birth control misses the mark when it comes to real world application. As leading healthcare providers for women, ob-gyns know that birth control is an essential component of comprehensive care and that decades of use have proven that oral contraceptives are safe for the clear majority of women. That’s why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports affordable, reliable access for American women to the contraceptives they need, when they need them.

We know many members of Congress are interested in this issue. But neither the Love/Ernst bill, nor “pharmacy access laws” are steps in the right direction.  Here’s why.

Ob-gyns know that oral contraceptives do not require any prescription at all. In fact, oral contraceptives are safer than many other medications already available over-the-counter. Pharmacist prescribing laws just substitute one barrier for another, impeding access for women to the care they need.

Importantly, birth control is not accessible unless it is affordable. Out-of-pocket costs are a major factor associated with inconsistent use of contraception. ACOG strongly supports the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) requirement of preventive health services, including birth control, without patient deductibles or co-pays. Cost and coverage, far from a “separate issue,” are integral to conversations to expand access to contraception.

ACOG supports over-the-counter access to birth control, but not as a substitute for the full, no co-pay coverage of all the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of birth control, under the ACA. Women also need unimpeded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC), which are more effective at preventing pregnancy than oral contraceptives, and cannot be over-the-counter.

ACOG does not support the Love/Ernst bill, which imposes an artificial age restriction, threatening to reverse our falling teen pregnancy rate, and which assumes that there are oral contraceptives that are on-the-shelf ready, even though none have been approved by the FDA. This bill does not ensure women greater access to safe and effective contraception.

Contraceptive access is a fundamental part of women’s health. Our common goal should be to improve women’s health care, prevent unintended pregnancies, and increase use of contraception, including LARC. Promises of quick fixes, including over-the-counter access, are shallow politics.

Washington, D.C.  

Bold leadership needed to advance energy innovation

From Heather Reams, managing director, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions

As Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds noted in her refreshing Aug. 7 op-ed, a red state like hers doesn’t “become an energy powerhouse by accident.” Leadership and bold action is needed.

Congress is currently in the appropriations process. So, as they return to their districts for August recess, hopefully their conversations with their constituents will focus on investing in the technology, science and research necessary for backing renewable energy initiatives like the ones Iowa took. The country could do much more as the U.S. stands just 12th in the world in energy R&D spending as a share of GDP.

Hesitant legislators should know that energy policy has now reached high levels of support across the political spectrum. A recent poll conducted by my organization, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, found that 75 percent of likely voters favor the federal government playing a role in the development and advancement of newer, cleaner, and more reliable energy. This includes a majority of Republicans, self-identified conservatives, and even those who voted for President Trump.

Energy innovation is increasingly critical to the nation’s job creation, economic growth and international competitiveness. GOP leaders in the states that could benefit the most need to follow in Iowa’s footsteps and begin building their energy future now.

Washington, DC

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