Bera, Pressley, Murray, Ocasio Cortez, Re-Introduce Affordability is Access Act, Advocate for Free Over-the-Counter Birth Control
Washington, DC, May 18, 2023
Tags: Health Care
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), re-introduced their bicameral Affordability is Access Act. This legislation would ensure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any fees or out-of-pocket costs.
The introduction comes after the FDA Advisory Committee’s unanimous vote last week recommending that the 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 Affordability is Access Act addresses the reality that for many—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability.
“As a physician, I recognize the importance of affordable contraception in safeguarding women’s reproductive health. It not only enables women to live healthier lives, but also bolsters their economic security and overall well-being,” said Rep. Bera, M.D. “In the face of ongoing efforts by several states to curtail women’s health care and restrict access to contraception, it's critical that we ensure women have access to affordable birth control free from the whims of extreme politicians. I'm proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Affordability is Access Act to do just that. It’s incumbent upon all of us to champion women's rights and guarantee their access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, including comprehensive reproductive health services.”
“We must use every tool available to protect reproductive health care and affirm it as the human right that it is,” said Rep. Pressley. “Our bill would help us do just that by increasing access and affordability for birth control. I’m grateful to Senator Murray, Reps. Bera and Ocasio-Cortez, and our colleagues for their partnership on this sorely-needed bill. This far-right Supreme Court and anti-choice politicians are stopping at nothing to attack our reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy—and we won’t let up.”
“We are here today to make sure women can get the birth control they need—and can get it without having to pay extra, ask permission, or jump through ridiculous hoops,” said Sen. Murray. “We are here to make sure that when birth control is available to everyone over the counter, it is also affordable for everyone. Because affordability IS access. And today, we are closer than ever to over-the-counter birth control. This is so important—especially in this post-Roe nightmare when far-right Republicans across the nation are rolling back reproductive rights, pushing radical and dangerous abortion bans, and making clear they are coming for birth control next.
“At a time when Republicans across the country are fighting to ban abortion nationwide—bans that disproportionately harm people of color, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ people—it is critical that we ensure every person who needs it can access and afford contraception,” said Sen. Hirono. “That FDA advisory panel vote to approve the first ever over-the-counter birth control application is a historic step forward in the fight to expand access to birth control, and I hope the FDA will act without delay to accept the panel’s recommendation. But as we know, access alone without affordability is not true access. That’s why we need to pass this legislation to help ensure everyone who needs it can access birth control, regardless of their income.”
“Women’s reproductive freedoms are under attack across the country, and we know that far-right extremists won’t stop at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “It is essential that we put policies in place now that will provide timely access to over-the-counter birth control once approved by the FDA. Comprehensive coverage for contraception will help thousands of Nevada women stay healthy and in control of their own lives. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation and will keep fighting for women’s rights.”
A copy of the bill text is available here.
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 this also applies to over-the-counter birth control. The Affordability is Access Act would also maintain the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over the counter without a prescription, and ensure retailers provide contraception without a prescription. The legislation states that any retailer that stocks contraception that the FDA has approved, granted, or cleared without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.
House co-sponsors include Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-DE), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-17), Judy Chu (CA-28), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Shontel M. Brown (OH-03), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Sean Casten (IL-06), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), David Trone (MD-06), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Mark Takano (CA-39), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Troy Carter (LA-02), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Summer Lee (PA-03), and Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), 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), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), 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).