June 17, 2019

Shaheen, Hassan Join Push for Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

(Washington, DC) – Last week, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of lawmakers led by U.S Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in introducing the Affordability is Access Act, legislation to make sure over-the-counter birth control is affordable and accessible for women across the country.

This legislation works to ensure that when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves birth control pills for over-the-counter use, they will be covered by insurance without cost sharing and without requiring a prescription. This would expand access to affordable birth control for women across the nation—including those in communities that face health disparities and greater challenges getting the care they need like women of color, women with disabilities, low-income women, and women in rural areas—while maintaining the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs.

The legislation comes as the Trump-Pence Administration continues its efforts to undermine women’s health, including its efforts to roll back protections that prevent women from being charged extra for birth control and to sabotage the Title X family planning program which helps women across the country get affordable health care—including contraceptive care.

“Contraception is health care, and it should be affordable and accessible to all those who seek it,” said Senator Shaheen. “Expanding access to birth control by making it available over the counter, and ensuring it remains covered by health insurance without any cost sharing, is a critical step forward in delivering the full scope of reproductive care that every woman deserves. This bill is urgently needed to help ensure women have control over their medical decisions and futures.” 

“By mandating that over-the-counter birth control be completely covered by insurance, this legislation will help ensure that women from all walks of life are able to access affordable contraception, and have control over their bodies and their futures,” said Senator Hassan.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The legislation has been endorsed by: National Women's Law Center (NWLC), Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), In Our Own Voice, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Guttmacher Institute, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Power to Decide.

The Affordability Is Access Act will:

  • Ensure coverage of comprehensive preventive health services and expand coverage to include 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 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 without a prescription.
  • Maintain 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 agency Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If the product meets such these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay.

  • Ensure Retailers Provide Oral Contraception without a Prescription. The Act states that 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.

Senator Shaheen is a dedicated advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Senator Shaheen has been fighting for years to increase coverage of women’s preventative care, including through the annual defense authorization bill. Last month, Shaheen delivered remarks on the Senate floor in defense of women’s reproductive rights, admonishing state legislatures around the country for imposing expansive abortion bans that are part of a concerted effort to repeal Roe v. Wade. In April, Shaheen led the bicameral effort in Congress to reintroduce her legislation that would overhaul the Department of Defense’s (DOD) policy on contraceptive coverage and family planning to bring it in line with current law for civilian populations. The bill would ensure all women who receive health care through the United States military have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. Shaheen also reintroduced the Access to Birth Control Act with Senator Cory Booker (D-NH), which would guarantee patients’ timely access to birth control at the pharmacy. In addition, Shaheen has repeatedly fought to repeal the Global Gag Rule, which bans critical federal aid for non-governmental groups that provide the full scope of family planning and maternal health services abroad.

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