Birth Control

Meet the Three (Male, GOP) Politicians Who Support Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills

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Ceridwen/Wikimedia

Over-the-counter contraception is a popular proposal among American women: In a 2013 poll, two-thirds said they were in favor of making hormonal birth control pills available without a prescription. It's a plan supported by major U.S. medical organizations, too. Following this week's Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, many libertarian types have been taking the occasion to once again push for OTC birth control pills

It's not a terribly apt corollary to the Hobby Lobby situation—of the contraceptive forms Hobby Lobby's owners oppose, one (Plan B) is already sold over the counter, and another (the IUD) legitimately requires a doctor's visit. But, hey, I'm always game to discuss the merits of OTC birth control pills. Most politicians, not so surprisingly, are not.

But what is surprising is who has been willing to broach the topic. If this were an Upworthy-esque site, I would have titled this post, "The 3 Politicians Who Publicly Support OTC Birth Control—What They Have In Common Will Surprise You!" What they have in common is they're all male Republicans.

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the only elected officials who have been calling for truly giving women more reproductive autonomy and greater access to contraception have been Y-chromosomed conservatives. The majority of responses I've seen from (male and female) Democratic politicians have simultaneously asserted that birth control decisions are not a woman's boss' business and continued to call for a system that makes birth control pills explicitly that. (The majority of official Republican responses have been no joy ride either, but at least these tend to be logically consistent in their idiocy.)

So without further ado: the only three politicians I could find on record supporting non-prescription birth control pills. 

1. Cory Gardner

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is currently running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, has been hammering Gardner over his alleged stance on contraception (Udall claimed that Gardner wanted to ban it). Rather than sit back and let the war-on-women hype machine roll over him, Gardner has gone on the defensive. In June, Gardner penned an op-ed for The Denver Post calling for an end to the "zero-sum approach to women's medical care."

"It's time we changed that and adopt modern policies that make sense instead of using women's medical issues as an election-year power play," wrote Gardner. "One of the most rational ways for Washington to break this gridlock is to approve oral contraception for over-the-counter purchases by adults." 

2. Bobby Jindal

In 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also took to the op-ed pages in support of over-the-counter birth control pills. "As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it," Jindal wrote in The Wall Street Journal, expressing agreement with a recent announcement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that oral contraceptives should be sold without a prescription. 

3. Gabriel Gomez

Gabriel Gomez is not even an elected official—this is how much I had to scrape to come up with at least three vocal political supporters of OTC birth control. Gomez was the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in the 2013 special election Massachusetts had to replace John Kerry. He lost to Democrat Edward Markey, who had made abortion access and contraception a major focus of his critiques against Gomez. 

Gomez stressed repeatedly that, while personally against abortion, he viewed Roe v Wade as "settled law." As far as birth control, Gomez said, "contraception should be available over the counter. They should take the politics out of it. And they should take the pharmaceutical companies out of it." 

Update: Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed me to some Virginia state politicians who support OTC birth control pills. In 2013 Barbara Comstock, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, spearheaded a request sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make birth control pills non-prescription. "This is a reform that makes sense and the Obama administration could quickly move on with bipartisan support," said the letter, signed by 13 members of the Virginia Assembly. 

I'll update further if more names come my way—I am hoping I am wrong about the lack of political support. But the paltriness of this list wasn't for a lack of seaching on my part.