Hirono, Colleagues Unveil Bill to Expand Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

During a speech on the US Senate floor May 9, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) advocated for abortion rights. Screen shot of the speech

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined colleagues Patty Murray (D-WA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) in introducing the Affordability is Access Act. The measure is aimed at helping 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.”

The bills comes as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate women’s constitutional right to abortion.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ami Bera, MD (D-CA).

“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 said in a press release. “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.”

She said 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.

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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 would ensure that insurers then 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,” according to the release.

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A new poll released this week shows bipartisan support for expanding access to birth control: 71% of Americans say they support allowing birth control to be sold over-the-counter, and 84% say that expanding access to birth control is important with the Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Affordability is Access Act seeks to implement the following:

  • 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 US Food and Drug Administration-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 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.

In addition to Senators Hirono, Murray, and Cortez Masto, the Senate bill is also co-sponsored by: Senators Brown (D-OH), Baldwin (D-WI), Reed (D-RI), Schatz (D-HI) , Blumenthal (D-CT), Markey (D-MA), Smith (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), Kaine (D-VA), Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Klobuchar (D-MN), Wyden (D-OR), Stabenow (D-MI), Booker (D-NJ), Rosen (D-NV), Warren (D-MA), Shaheen (D-NH), Duckworth (D-IL), Hassan (D-NH), Bennet (D-CO), Feinstein ( D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Padilla (D-CA), Leahy (D-VT), and Murphy (D-CT).

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The legislation is endorsed by: 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, Population Connection Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Health Law Program, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access, Advocates for Youth, and Ibis Reproductive Health.

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