Reed, Whitehouse, Colleagues Reintroduce Affordability is Access Act
Legislation would protect women’s access to affordable over-the-counter birth control
WASHINGTON, DC – As extremist Republican state legislatures and right-wing, GOP-appointed judges and justices step up their assault on a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined with Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and 23 of their Senate colleagues to reintroduce the Affordability is Access Act. The bicameral legislation would ensure that women in Rhode Island and across the nation have affordable access to FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control without a prescription.
“At a time when Republicans are making it harder for women to access health care, including contraception, this critical legislation would ensure that women are able to access affordable, FDA-approved birth control, whether by prescription or over-the-counter. Contraception is health care and every woman deserves to make their own private medical decisions,” said Senator Reed.
“Women’s reproductive rights are under threat like never before from GOP governors, state legislatures, and right-wing judges and justices. These extremists have made clear that their attack on women’s rights won’t stop with abortion care, and they’ve already set their sights on curbing contraception access,” said Senator Whitehouse. “If the FDA decides to make birth control more accessible to women by offering it over the counter, Congress should make sure it can still be covered by insurance.”
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 once the FDA approves routine, daily use of oral birth control without a prescription, private health insurance plans would be required to cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs to the patient.
The Affordability is Access Act:
- Ensures coverage of all contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription.
- Maintains the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription.
- Entities that research and develop contraceptives must 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.
- Requires retailers to provide OTC contraception without a prescription.
- The Affordability is Access Act states that any retailer that stocks 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 introduction comes after the FDA Advisory Committee’s unanimous vote this month recommending that FDA move forward to approve the first-ever application for over-the-counter birth control. 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 legislation is led by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), 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), 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). Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ami Bera, MD (D-CA) led the companion legislation in the House.
The Affordability is Access Act 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.
Read the full text of the Affordability is Access Act here.