GOP Courts Women With Over-the-Counter Birth Control Measure

Monday, 18 Aug 2014 11:22 AM

By Andrea Billups

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It's a simple proposal that would likely help most women, but one that comes with political consequences — make birth control available over the counter without a prescription.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who first proposed the measure, is now joined by several other Republicans around the country who hope to carve out a modern niche in the birth control debate and at the same time, nab badly needed female voters traditionally embraced by Democrats, The Hill reported.

His idea, supported by many in the healthcare industry, will likely raise the ire of some social conservatives. But Gardner, who is running in a tight race for U.S. Senate, says birth control should go the way of Advil, Prilosec, and other common drugs that once required a prescription but are now widely available on grocery store shelves, noted The Hill, calling the position a political "gamble."

"When treatments go over the counter, two things happen: They get dramatically cheaper, and consumers save time and hassle by avoiding unnecessary doctors' appointments just to get the pharmaceuticals they already know they need," Gardner wrote in an opinion piece published by the Denver Post in June. He also noted better access for those who live in rural areas like his home community near Yuma, Colorado, where a doctor is often many miles away.

"Fewer unneeded doctors' appointments mean fewer missed workdays and child-care expenses, more productivity and more time with family," Gardner said. "This is particularly true for rural families like mine where doctors are not always nearby. With over 50,000 pharmacies in America and no appointment required, 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 and need a refill far from home."

Democrats, however, called the idea from Republicans a political stunt.

"Access to contraception and family planning services aren't election-year gimmicks," said Kristin Lynch, a spokeswoman for Sen. Mark Udall, who is Gardner's opponent. "They're fundamental rights that we must protect. Unlike Congressman Gardner, Mark doesn't see women as a box to check."

The birth control issue has heated up the Colorado Senate race and become a fighting point elsewhere, as Democrats defend it as their territory. In July, however, Senate Republicans quickly blocked a measure, the "Not My Boss' Business" Act, that would have given women who work for companies with religious objections to providing birth control access to those medications, the Associated Press reported.

The Democrats' legislation was an attempt to sidestep the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which has fueled the debate politically, AP reported.

One Republican senator called out Democrats, much like they have called out Gardner.

"Democrats are just trying to win an election," Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told the AP.

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