#FreeThePill: Pressley, Murray, Ocasio-Cortez, Bera & Hill Introduce Over-the-Counter Birth Control Legislation
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Chair of the Abortion Access Task Force; U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) and Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA) introduced the Affordability is Access Act (AAA), which would require insurance companies to cover any oral contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and be available over-the counter without the need for a prescription. Specifically, the bill:
- Ensures that FDA approved birth control pills will be covered without cost sharing and without prescription requirements – which would expand access to affordable birth control while maintaining the FDA’s authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs.
- Offers a clear contrast to the Trump-Pence Administration’s ongoing efforts to undermine women’s health - 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 access affordable contraceptive care.
Congresswoman Pressley has been a longtime leader in the fight for reproductive justice. She introduced an amendment to the Labor-HHS-Education spending package, which aimed to repeal the discriminatory Hyde Amendment and require the federal government to ensure access to abortion care for all individuals. The Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects low income women and women of color. Additionally, following the announcement of Alabama’s restrictive abortion ban, Congresswoman Pressley introduced a resolution to reaffirm Congress’s support for Roe v. Wade and an individual’s constitutional right to exercise their reproductive autonomy. In May, Congresswoman Pressley introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act – legislation to combat the rising maternal mortality rates by expanding and enhancing coverage for pregnant people enrolled in Medicaid.
“Bodily autonomy is a basic human right,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Reproductive justice is not only a healthcare issue, it is also an economic issue and a civil rights issue. The Affordability is Access Act removes expensive barriers to contraceptive care - affirming a person’s right to make decisions about their body, if and when to start a family, and their future. At a time when reproductive rights are under attack, it is more critical than ever that we take bold steps to reaffirm reproductive rights for all Americans.”
“Women seeking contraceptive care shouldn’t find they have to pay extra, ask permission, or hurdle barriers put up by politicians who think their ideology is more important than a woman’s personal health care decisions,” said Senator Murray. “While President Trump and Vice President Pence have been focused on putting up barriers and making it harder for women to get the care they need, I’m fighting to tear them down and pushing for steps like this legislation to make it easier for all women to access affordable birth control.”
“It is a brutal form of oppression to seize control of the one essential thing a person should command: their own body. Women should have the right to own and control their own bodies,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. “I am proud to support the #FreethePill legislation which would make birth control over-the-counter.”
“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,” said Congressman Bera. “I am proud to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation, which is in stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine women’s health care and roll back access to birth control. We must all fight to ensure women have access to quality, affordable healthcare – including access to full reproductive health services.”
“Reproductive healthcare is as personal as it is critical,” said Congresswoman Hill. “Easy and affordable access to birth control both reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies and increases the economic security of women and families. We’ve seen over and over this Administration’s attempts to rollback the basic rights of women and make it harder for them to access birth control. It’s time to stand up and loudly say: Not on our watch. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation and stand with my colleagues on this issue that affects the health of all women.”
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 women. 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 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 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.
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by: Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), 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), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), 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), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
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.