Guttmacher Pushes Back On GOPers’ ‘Troubling’ Over-The-Counter Plan

Shutterstock image of birth control pills. Photo credit: varin jindawong
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The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance reproductive health policies, released a statement on Thursday calling Republicans’ proposal on over-the-counter contraception “troubling.”

The statement from Guttmacher comes as a number of Republican U.S. Senate candidates around the country have come out in support of making contraceptive pills available over the counter without a prescription. Critics of this move have noted that doing so while also opposing Obamacare (and the measures in it that cover contraceptive care) would effectively make it harder for some to buy birth control. The Guttmacher Institute statement highlights that point.

Legislation by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that specifically urges the Food and Drug Administration to study making contraceptive pills over the counter is also specifically mentioned in the Guttmacher statement.

“Making birth control pills available over the counter, if done right, would meaningfully improve access for some groups of women,” the statement, by Adam Sonfield and Sneha Barot said. “However, such a change is no substitute for public and private insurance coverage of contraceptives—let alone justification for rolling back coverage of all contraceptive methods and related services for the millions of women who currently have it.”

Guttmacher noted that making contraceptive pills available over-the-counter “has merit” through “removing the need to obtain a prescription, OTC status would eliminate this potential barrier to contraceptive use and thereby increase access.”

But, the Guttmacher statement continued, the best way to expand contraceptive care should go alongside other policy changes. Those include Obamacare’s requirement for most private insurance to cover “the full range of women’s contraceptive methods,” eliminating the prescription requirement for certain contraceptive over-the-counter products, and increasing access of over-the-counter contraception to minors.

Finally, Guttmacher argues to “Keep politics out of FDA decision making” on over-the-counter contraception.

“The evidence is quite strong that providing birth control pills OTC would be safe and effective, including for minors,” the statement said. “The FDA process should be driven by the evidence and free from political interference by the administration, Congress and others.”

That’s specifically directed at Ayotte and McConnell “who purport to be interested in contraceptive access would preempt FDA with unfounded calls to bar minors from benefiting from any future OTC status for birth control pills. This echoes the longtime political and legal wrangling over minors’ access to OTC emergency contraceptive pills, despite clear evidence that minors could safely use these products without a prescription.”

The Guttmacher statement follows one by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists specifically denouncing candidates and election officials who are trying to use the over-the-counter argument as a “political tool.”

Read the whole Guttmacher statement here.

Shutterstock / varin jindawong

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