During the North Carolina debate tonight, Republican nominee Thom Tillis trotted out a new line of attack that his fellow Republican Senate candidate in Colorado, Cory Gardner, tried out this week too: Win over women voters by trying to seem in favor of greater access to contraception by pushing for over-the-counter access.
Republicans have long struggled with how to tread lightly on women’s issues — they have a conservative base that generally opposes birth control and abortion, but they don’t want to come out as openly opposing something nearly all of adult women (and therefore men) use. This has been especially tough in a cycle following the infamous “war on women” messaging. A recently leaked poll found that women tend to think of the Republican party as “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.
This new line of attack seems to solve the politics of the problem: by pushing for over-the-counter access on birth control, Republicans can seem to actually be promoting birth control access in a year they are closely tied with the infamously anti-woman Hobby Lobby case.
Planned Parenthood has said they smell a rat: They see this as an overall effort to reduce insurance coverage of birth control and the most expensive (and for some the most effective) forms — like the IUD — are still very expensive and couldn’t be accessed over the counter, even if we were to put the pill on sale at CVS next to the condoms.
The key is with this new position is: Will it actually work and fight the GOP’s tide on losing large chunks of the women’s vote? Or will they just see through it?