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June 7, 2022

Pressley, Murray, Ocasio-Cortez, Bera, Hirono, Cortez Masto Unveil Bill to Expand Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

#FreeThePill Legislation Comes as Republicans Attack Reproductive Health Care

Bill Text (PDF) | Bill Summary (PDF) | Press Conference (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA-07), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the Affordability is Access Act (AAA) to ensure that people across the country can access and afford over-the-counter birth control options and plan their own reproductive lives, on their own terms. 

As Republicans work around the clock to rob people of the ability to plan a family on their own terms—including by banning abortion and attacking access to birth control—Democrats are focused on making sure people can get the birth control they need without being forced to pay out-of-pocket or jump through unnecessary hoops. The Affordability is Access Act would ensure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, it approves it without delay—and then would ensure that insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs. The legislation addresses the reality that for many—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability. 

A new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans support expanding access to birth control: 71% said they support allowing birth control to be sold over-the-counter and 84% said that expanding access to birth control is important with the Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v. Wade

“With this far-right Supreme Court and anti-choice legislatures across the country stopping at nothing to attack our reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, we must use every tool available to protect reproductive health care and affirm it as the fundamental human right that it is,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Our bill would help us do just that by ensuring birth control is affordable and accessible to all and affirming a person’s fundamental right to make decisions about their body, when to start a family, and their future. Our work to protect our reproductive freedom is far from finished and we’re not backing down in this fight.” 

“No one should have to jump through ridiculous hoops or pay extra just to get the birth control they need—because birth control impacts women’s health, their bodily autonomy, their wallets, and their economic security,” said Senator Murray. “Across the country, Republicans are fighting to roll back the clock on reproductive rights and control women’s choices about if and when to start a family—but Democrats are fighting back just as hard. We know that women across America don’t want politicians making it harder to get birth control, they want to free the pill—and this bill will do just that, by ensuring women can get the birth control they need without a prescription or out-of-pocket costs.”

“As a doctor, I know access to affordable contraception is critical for women’s reproductive health. It enables women to live healthier lives and enhances their economic security and well-being,” said Congressman Bera. “I am proud to introduce this important piece of legislation, which stands in stark contrast to Republican efforts to undermine women’s health care and roll back access to birth control. I’ll keep fighting to ensure women have access to quality, affordable healthcare – including access to full reproductive health services.”

“Women have a right to control their bodies and their futures—that includes if, when, and how to start a family. With far-right Republican governors and state legislatures passing archaic bans on abortion and a radical Supreme Court set to overturn 50 years of precedent, we need to make sure every single person can access and afford birth control,” said Senator Hirono. “There is an all-out assault on reproductive freedom—and we’re just weeks away from women across the country waking up to find out they no longer have a constitutional right to an abortion. We’re fighting back—and that starts with passing this legislation.”

“Birth control is essential health care, and it has helped thousands of Nevadans stay healthy and in control of their reproductive choices,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to protect women’s access to safe and affordable family planning options, and I’ll keep fighting to ensure that everyone who wants and needs birth control has easy access to quality, affordable care.” 

The Affordability is Access Act (AAA) 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. All private health insurance plans are now required to cover all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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 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 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 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. 

The bill is co-sponsored by more than 100 members of the House and Senate including: Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jackie Speier, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Jake Auchincloss, Gerald E. Connolly, Nydia M. Velázquez, Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin, Carolyn B. Maloney, Mark Takano, Lauren Underwood, Suzan DelBene, Marilyn Strickland, Sylvia R. Garcia, Grace F. Napolitano, Danny K. Davis, Adriano Espaillat, Sean Casten, John B. Larson, Brenda L. Lawrence, Anthony Brown, Lizzie Fletcher, Suzanne Bonamici, Nikema Williams, Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Julia Brownley, Jared Huffman, Betty McCollum, Darren Soto, Rosa DeLauro, Lloyd Doggett, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Ro Khanna, Juan Vargas, Earl Blumenauer, David Cicilline, Danny K. Davis, Ted Lieu, Gwen Moore, Yvette Clarke, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ritchie Torres, Mark DeSaulnier, Cheri Bustos, Bonnie Watson Coleman , Adam Smith, Mondaire Jones, Dwight Evans, Peter A. DeFazio, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jan Schakowsky, Lori Trahan, Derek Kilmer, Salud Carbajal, Alan Lowenthal, Marie Newman, Kim Schrier, M.D., Linda T. Sánchez, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Jamaal Bowman, David Trone, Eric Swalwell, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Jerry McNerney, Judy Chu, Lois Frankel, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Diana DeGette, Kathy Manning, Dina Titus, Fredericka Wilson, Kathy Castor, Alma S. Adams, Jimmy Gomez, Raul Grijalva, Rashida Tlaib, Katherine Moore Porter, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Mike Quigley, Scott H. Peters, Karen Bass, Jerrold Nadler, Katherine Clark, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lucy McBath, Tony Cardenas, Mark Pocan, Ilhan Omar, Bradley Schneider, Deborah K. Ross, Peter Welch, Matt Cartwright, Tom Malinowski, and Senators Brown, Baldwin, Reed, Schatz, Blumenthal, Markey, Smith, Menendez, Kaine, Merkley, Sanders, Cantwell, Whitehouse, Gillibrand, Heinrich, Klobuchar, Wyden, Stabenow, Booker, Rosen, Warren, Shaheen, Duckworth, Hassan, Bennet, Feinstein, Peters, Padilla, Leahy, and Murphy. 

The legislation is endorsed by: Reproductive Equity Now, Power to Decide, Catholics for Choice, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Women’s Law Center, Reproductive Health Access Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Contraceptive Access Initiative, NARAL Pro-Choice America, American Atheists, American Public Health Association, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, Upstream USA, Center for Reproductive Rights, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health Women’s Health, Population Connection Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Health Law Program, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access (CECA), Advocates for Youth, Ibis Reproductive Health. 

“Access to affordable contraception is a core tenet of reproductive equity. Coverage of contraception should never depend on your race, your zip code, or how much money you have in the bank,” said Reproductive Equity Now Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder. “The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was estimated to save women $1.4B in its first year alone. Over-the-counter birth control will expand access in critical ways, but it must come without a cost barrier. We are proud to endorse Congresswoman Pressley’s Affordability is Access Act, because as reproductive health care is under attack, we need proactive solutions to ensure affordable access to basic health care is protected.”

“The Affordability is Access Act would eliminate unnecessary barriers to obtaining birth control. As a physician, I know that contraception is safe, effective, and should be easy to obtain. Requiring prescriptions, mandating doctors’ visits, and creating other medically unnecessary barriers harms patients. It is essential that we address this problem now,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, President & CEO, Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“Young people have the right to hope and dream about their futures and to make decisions that help those dreams become reality. For many, affordable and accessible birth control is key to realizing these dreams,” said Debra Hauser, President, Advocates for Youth. “This bill will go a long way to helping young people access the birth control they need. We urge Congress to pass the Affordability is Access Act.” 

“The American Public Health Association has long supported access to the full array of reproductive health services as an essential component of medical care,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “The ability to make your own reproductive choices is critical to achieving the full range of health, social and economic co-benefits. We applaud Chairwoman Patty Murray, Representative Ayanna Pressley and the other sponsors of the Affordability is Access Act for tackling affordability which is a significant barrier to access for far too many people. This is especially true for low income and other underserved populations. Equitable access to these important health services is essential to achieving health equity.” 

“Across party lines voters overwhelmingly support eliminating needless barriers for people seeking to prevent pregnancy,” Contraceptive Access Initiative (CAI) Co-founder Dana Singiser said. “More than six decades of safety data about the pill and a national reproductive health crisis should motivate the FDA to prioritize the review process moving toward approval. We applaud Rep. Pressley’s leadership on ensuring that everyone has the means to access this safe and highly effective contraception.” 

“Removing barriers to safe and effective birth control is an urgent reproductive health access and equity issue,” said Power to Decide CEO and practicing OB-GYN Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH. “That’s especially true for people in rural communities and communities of color, who already face systemic roadblocks to getting the health care they need. In my own practice, I have seen how barriers such as cost and access to providers can limit the options available to my patients and make it harder for them to access the contraceptive method that meets their needs. Far too often, after counseling my patients, assessing the risks and benefits of each type of birth control, and helping them identify a method that works best for them, we find that the price tag or lack of availability places it out of reach. Many more people may not be able to get a timely appointment with a provider in the first place. The Affordability is Access Act would expand access to birth control not only for the 19 million women living in contraceptive deserts, but for people in every part of the country. By expanding access to contraception, we are supporting everyone’s right to protect their health and determine their own future.” 

“Affordability is key to ensuring all of us can access contraception. Birth control pills are safe and effective, and are very popular methods. As we get closer to the day when we can access birth control pills over the counter, we must ensure that they are affordable and fully covered by insurance. We’re working to ensure that everyone can access the birth control they need, however much money they have,” said Kelly Blanchard, President, Ibis Reproductive Health. 

“Affordability is key to ensuring all of us can access contraception. Birth control pills are safe and effective, and are very popular methods. As we get closer to the day when we can access birth control pills over the counter, we must ensure that they are affordable and fully covered by insurance. We’re working to ensure that everyone can access the birth control they need, however much money they have,” said Kelly Blanchard, President, Ibis Reproductive Health. 

“Despite our gains in contraceptive access, barriers still prevent many from getting affordable birth control, especially people of color, those living in rural areas, young people, and immigrants,” said Jocelyn Frye, President, National Partnership for Women & Families. “The Affordability is Access Act ensures that oral contraception can be available over-the-counter so that people can get it without obtaining a prescription or making additional appointments. We applaud Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Murray for reintroducing a bill that is particularly timely as attacks on abortion and contraceptive access escalate, threatening our bodily autonomy and ability to thrive.” 

“In this pivotal moment in the fight for our fundamental rights, expanding access to birth control  has never been more important,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju. “We’re grateful to Rep. Pressley and Sen. Murray for their work to expand access to birth control, and look forward to continuing to work by their sides to protect and advance reproductive freedom.” 

“The data are clear that cost is an important barrier to contraceptive access,” said Daniel Grossman, MD, Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). “As we get closer to seeing an over-the-counter birth control pill approved by the FDA, it’s critical that we ensure this method is fully covered by insurance. The Affordability is Access Act would make that a reality and expand access for people who currently face barriers to contraception.” 

Read full text of the Affordability is Access Act here

Read a summary of the Affordability is Access Act here

Last month, Rep. Pressley delivered a passionate floor speech in which she slammed the white supremacist history of the anti-abortion movement and implored the Senate to stand on the right side of history by passing WHPA and codifying the right to abortion care into law. Full video of her remarks is available here

In June, Congresswoman Pressley, along with U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere.  Last week, she issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

In September, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.  

As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to repeal the Hyde Amendment and protect comprehensive reproductive health care for all, including abortion care.  

Over the course of her first term serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has filed amendments every year to repeal Hyde from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. 

  • In April, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians.
  • In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
  • In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade. In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription. 
  • In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.