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May 18, 2023

Pressley, Murray, Bera, Ocasio Cortez Re-Introduce Affordability is Access Act, Advocate for Free Over-the-Counter Birth Control

Lawmakers Led Press Conference Last Week Urging FDA to Swiftly Review Panel’s Recommendation to Approve Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

Bill Text (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Ami Bera, MD (CA-06) and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), re-introduced their bicameral Affordability is Access Act. The legislation would ensure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any fees or out-of-pocket costs.

The introduction comes after the FDA Advisory Committee’s unanimous vote last week recommending that the FDA move forward to approve the first-ever application for over-the-counter birth control. Immediately after the vote, Representative Pressley and Senator Murray urged the FDA to follow the science and quickly review the over-the-counter birth control application.

Recent polling has found that nearly 8 in 10 voters have a favorable view of birth control pills and more than 7 in 10 support making the pill available over-the-counter.  The Affordability is Access Act addresses the reality that for many—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability.

“We must use every tool available to protect reproductive health care and affirm it as the human right that it is,” said Rep. Pressley. “Our bill would help us do just that by increasing access and affordability for birth control. I’m grateful to Senator Murray, Reps. Bera and Ocasio-Cortez, and our colleagues for their partnership on this sorely-needed bill. This far-right Supreme Court and anti-choice politicians are stopping at nothing to attack our reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy—and we won’t let up.”

“We are here today to make sure women can get the birth control they need—and can get it without having to pay extra, ask permission, or jump through ridiculous hoops,” said Sen. Murray. “We are here to make sure that when birth control is available to everyone over the counter, it is also affordable for everyone. Because affordability IS access. And today, we are closer than ever to over-the-counter birth control. This is so important—especially in this post-Roe nightmare when far-right Republicans across the nation are rolling back reproductive rights, pushing radical and dangerous abortion bans, and making clear they are coming for birth control next.

“As a physician, I recognize the importance of affordable contraception in safeguarding women’s reproductive health. It not only enables women to live healthier lives, but also bolsters their economic security and overall well-being,” said Rep. Bera, M.D. “In the face of ongoing efforts by several states to curtail women’s health care and restrict access to contraception, it’s critical that we ensure women have access to affordable birth control free from the whims of extreme politicians. I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Affordability is Access Act to do just that. It’s incumbent upon all of us to champion women’s rights and guarantee their access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, including comprehensive reproductive health services.”

“At a time when Republicans across the country are fighting to ban abortion nationwide—bans that disproportionately harm people of color, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ people—it is critical that we ensure every person who needs it can access and afford contraception,” said Sen. Hirono. “That FDA advisory panel vote to approve the first ever over-the-counter birth control application is a historic step forward in the fight to expand access to birth control, and I hope the FDA will act without delay to accept the panel’s recommendation. But as we know, access alone without affordability is not true access. That’s why we need to pass this legislation to help ensure everyone who needs it can access birth control, regardless of their income.”

“Women’s reproductive freedoms are under attack across the country, and we know that far-right extremists won’t stop at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “It is essential that we put policies in place now that will provide timely access to over-the-counter birth control once approved by the FDA. Comprehensive coverage for contraception will help thousands of Nevada women stay healthy and in control of their own lives. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation and will keep fighting for women’s rights.”

“Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly support eliminating needless barriers for people seeking to prevent pregnancy,” said Dana Singiser, co-founder of the Contraceptive Access Initiative. “More than six decades of safety data about the pill and a national reproductive health crisis should motivate the FDA to swiftly act on the two oral contraceptive pills currently under review for availability over the counter. We applaud Senator Murray and Representative Pressley’s leadership on ensuring that everyone has the means to access this safe and highly effective contraception and ensuring that insurance must cover OTC contraceptive products.”

A copy of the bill text is available here.

Under the Affordable Care Act, all private health insurance plans are required to fully cover — without copays or out-of-pocket costs — all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, granted, or cleared methods of contraception. The Affordability is Access Act would ensure that this also applies to over-the-counter birth control. The Affordability is Access Act would also maintain the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over the counter without a prescription, and ensure retailers provide contraception without a prescription. The legislation states that any retailer that stocks contraception that the FDA has approved, granted, or cleared without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.

House co-sponsors include Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-DE), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-17), Judy Chu (CA-28), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Shontel M. Brown (OH-03), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Sean Casten (IL-06), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), David Trone (MD-06), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Mark Takano (CA-39), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Troy Carter (LA-02), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Summer Lee (PA-03), and Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The bill is endorsed by: Contraceptive Access Initiative (CAI), National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), National Health Law Program, Upstream USA, Reproductive Health Access Project, American Humanist Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women & Families, Healthy Teen Network, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The American College of Nurse-Midwives, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access (CECA), The Guttmacher Institute, Power to Decide, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH), National Coalition of STD Directors, Ibis Reproductive Health, Population Connection Action Fund, The Center for Biological Diversity, National Council of Jewish Women, Collaborative, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, National Women’s Law Center, American Public Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Advocates for Youth, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Catholics for Choice, and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

Last year, Rep. Pressley, along with U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Congressman Ami Bera (CA-06), 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. 

In her time serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has fought persistently to protect fundamental reproductive and sexual health care rights. 

  • Rep. Pressley is a lead co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. 
  • Rep. Pressley is also a lead co-sponsor of the EACH Act, bold legislation to repeal the Hyde Amendment and help guarantee abortion coverage—regardless of how a patient gets their health insurance.
  • Shortly before the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Rep. Pressley led a group of her Black women colleagues in writing to President Biden urging him to declare a public health emergency amid the unprecedented threats to abortion rights nationwide. 
  • Rep. Pressley condemned the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade., and implored the Senate to protect abortion rights and slammed the white supremacist roots of anti-abortion efforts.
  • In September 2021, 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. 
  • In April 2021, 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. She re-Introduced the legislation In January 2023.
  • Rep. Pressley has led calls in Congress for the FDA to remove medically unnecessary restrictions on the medication abortion drug mifepristone, and applauded the FDA’s action in January 2023 to allow retail pharmacies to dispense abortion medication pills.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley delivered a speech in which she discussed the pending court case in Texas, which aims to restrict access to medication abortion across the entire nation. In her remarks, Rep. Pressley affirmed medication abortion as routine medical care, and accessibility to the abortion pill mifepristone as essential.
  • As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has led the fight to repeal the Hyde Amendments from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July 2020 published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. She applauded the removal of the Hyde Amendment in President Biden’s FY2022 budget.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley, along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reps. Schakowsky, Lee, DeGette, Torres and Strickland, reintroduced the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act harmful and discriminatory Helms Amendment and expand abortion access globally.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley and Senator Hirono led their colleagues in reintroducing a bicameral congressional resolution honoring abortion providers and clinic staff. 
  • 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 August 2021 Rep. Pressley, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, and Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Diana DeGette and Barbara Lee led more than 70 of their House Democratic colleagues in introducing a resolution in support of equitable, science-based policies governing access to medication abortion care. 
  • In January 2023, Rep. Pressley introduced a resolution to condemn all forms of political violence in the U.S., regardless of its target or intent. That same day, she delivered a powerful speech on the House floor slamming Republicans’ harmful, misleading anti-abortion resolution.
  • In September 2022, Rep. Pressley hosted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester for a convening on their work to address the Black maternal health crisis and the criminalization of abortion care in states across the nation following the harmful U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health
  • 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.