Birth Control

Senate Republicans' Birth Control Bill Could Pave the Way for Over-the-Counter Contraception



Hey, so who's ready to talk some more about birth control, yeah? I'm sorry. I know. Me neither. But in the endless "I know you are but what am I?" loop that constitutes War On Women rhetoric, both Democrats and Republicans just will not let this shit go. Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the "Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act," which is basically the "force all employers to cover contraceptives act." This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) countered with the "Preserving Religious Freedom and a Woman's Access to Contraception Act."

Two points to McConnell for managing to give his bill a non-Orwellian name. But does McConnell's bill "literally do nothing," as some have claimed? At a press conference Tuesday, McConnell—who is cosponsoring the bill with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)—described it as legislation "that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives" or any other FDA-approved drug or medical device. 

This, of course, is already a thing that can't happen. But in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling—which said certain employers didn't have to adhere to the Obamacare contraception mandate—many Democrats and liberals were framing the matter as one of companies (or Republicans, or the Supreme Court) denying women access to contraception. McConnell's bill is in part spurred by these hyperbolic claims. 

But the more interesting—which is to say, less practically useless—part of the bill is this bit: 

The Preserving Religious Freedom and a Woman's Access to Contraception Act … requests that the Food and Drug Administration study whether prescription contraceptives could be made available safely to adults without a prescription

Finally! There's no reason more forms of birth control shouldn't be available over-the-counter. And proposing this is a way to genuinely take a stand for "women's health" and "access to contraception." The Republican bill would also lift the Obamacare cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and restore the use of health savings accounts and FSAs to cover over-the-counter drugs.  

NEXT: John Stossel: Government Spent Your Gas-Tax Billions on Urban Transit

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Yes, but what do the Millenials think about OTC birth control?

    Perhaps Reason should take a poll.

      1. *squints like Clint Eastwood*

        Try that. It’s a real panty-dropper.


    1. Patience Tman.

    2. if someone else is paying for it, they support it.

  2. Despite the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that birth control be available over the counter, the democrats will never go along with this. It would actually give women better access to birth control while taking away from the government’s control over it. But that would also reduce their ability to order other people to pay for it.

  3. And who wrote this lovely unsigned article?

    1. Hmmm, well you probably could have guessed here, but thank you for alerting me.

      1. I just wanted to make sure you got full credit 🙂

        Especially if the poo flinging stars.

        1. SHE DIDN’T USE ALT-TEXT!!11!!

          1. There can be no credit without alt-text.

            Only blame.

    2. Article? there are articles? I read reason for the comments.

  4. Me: “Do you think your employer should be allowed to prohibit you from using birth control?”

    Prog: “Hell no! [long disjointed screed omitted]

    Me: “Me neither! Do you think your employer should be required to buy your birth control for you?”

    Prog: “Hell yes! [rambling, spittle-flecked rant omitted]

    Me: “Do you see any difference between me, for example, declining to buy your food for you, and prohibiting you from buying food?”

      1. Yeah. I had this conversation quite a few times following the Hobby Lobby ruling.

    1. But Sandra Fluke tells me the pill costs $5000 a year! And she says you’re oppressing her with patriarchy unless you cough up about $6000 of that bill.

      1. If that’s the Mexican Peso sign rather than the dollar sign, maybe, since that translates to $33 a month. But she can cough up her own $33.

  5. Any small step toward disentangling people’s health care options from the terms of their employment contract is a good step.

    1. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the argument from several people that Obamacare is doing just that.

      I’ve known some co-workers who have worked as independent contractors and therefore had to buy their healthcare separately and they’d get screwed because the insurance know that people on individual plans don’t have a team of lawyers ready to start litigating for them.

      So the big advantage of the current system (healthcare through employment) is that your company’s legal term can fight for you and the insurance company won’t try to screw with you as much.

      1. This is why it would be a very good idea to get back to mutual-insurance associations.

        I read my great-grandpa’s policy from one such group – I think it was Woodmen of the World – he paid dues, promised not to drink, and they insured him against life’s risks – though probably not contraceptives, though I haven’t looked at the fine print.

        1. I assume it didn’t cover contraceptives because…here I am!

      2. This! And if it is the owner getting screwed, watch out. I’ve seen all sorts of special treatment given to our employees, because of an aggressive HR dept., that surely wasn’t provided to individual policy holders.

  6. requests that the Food and Drug Administration study

    If that is all the bill says, then it’s useless. Even if the FDA agrees, it will probably take them 10 years to make a decision. Why not order them to just fucking do it?

    1. At least if it’s as controversial as sunscreen ingredients to the FDA.

    2. The way to do it is to get someone to sponsor an application to market such a drug that way. Nothing says Congress can’t make such an appl’n.

  7. Are there any lefty talking points that are not a straight up fucking lie?

    1. You can always unfilter Tony and perform a a survey of everything he posts for the week. In that time span you should hear every dem talking point thrice over.

      1. But is it worth the price your sanity pays?

        1. I’m willing to sacrifice Suthenboy’s sanity if you are.

        2. I’ve already burned my sanity points dealing with Bureaucracy, derp can’t hurt me anymore, it just bounces off.

  8. Can we (*me speaking for ‘The Patriarchy’) just give “women” (aka the screamy-minority of aggrieved fembloggers and their cat-loving hordes of acolytes) everything they’re asking for already, please?

    Because i think The Patriarchy just want to drink beer and watch the game.

    Speaking of this “OTC Pill” issue… is it not already OTC in many other countries? I seem to recall someone telling me that in the EU its like, universally available. You get checked when you’re like a teenager, and after that its all good, you just go into any drug store and easy-peasy.

    1. I know for a fact you get it OTC in Dubai, a friend tells me you get it OTC in Iran…motherfucking IRAN.

      1. Iran allows you to sell a kidney too, so, um, I dunno.

        1. What’s the problem?

    2. Yep – only about one-third of countries worldwide require a prescription.

      1. VOX provides the Explanatory Images!

        I do find it odd that the only nations on Earth that seem so concerned about restricting the pill to Rx are US/EU/Australia…? because…why? It can’t be because of the evul conservatives… healthcare industry keeps profits higher that way? Possibly. Why in the name of the Great War on Wimmins has this remained unanswered? It seems to me that the Dems – like Hamas – want to keep the fight going perpetually rather than “solve” the issue, here.

        I’d think this would be the ideal time to strike the Left on this weak point and neuter their whole “Coporashuns Hates Wimmun!” beef… Let them Have Pills!

        1. Historically Christian countries?

  9. God I’m so sick of all this bullshit. All of it.


    Yeah, not giving you shit at others’ expense is exactly the same thing as preventing you from obtaining it. Which, ironically, the FDA is actually guilty of.

    Fuck all ya’ll, it’s whiskey time.

    1. Isn’t that the way progressive government works? You take some tiny problem, pretend it’s a huge problem, and then build a giant bureaucracy to “solve” the tiny problem into a much bigger one. Then, when that bureaucracy becomes too slow and unwieldy, you build another, even bigger bureaucracy that provides some workarounds for the unresponsive first bureaucracy. But this time you get better TOP MEN and promise everyone the big problem you created yourself will now be fixed once and for all. Why, it’s almost as though the actual goal was looting and control all along. But of course, that’s just not true.

    2. Not giving is taking!

      Whiskey before 1:00? That’s a bold strategy, Cotton…

      1. It’s always whiskey time.

        1. Eh, maybe on Fri-Sun. I actually have to get shit done today.

      2. Do you not drink whiskey before 1:00?

        My mom always told me the best way to accomplish your goals is to start on them as early as possible.

        1. Believe me, a healthy dose of inebriation certainly helps deal with the endless barrage of soul-sucking bureaucratic mindfuckery, but my teetotaling overlords would likely not approve. Sucks that I got moved outta the relative anonymity of the cube farm to a desk in the front office.

      3. Whiskey before 1:00? That’s a bold strategy, Cotton…

        “Whiskey before 1, never more fun.” Or something. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

    3. So… what is the brand of choice today?

      I’ve been hooked on Bulleit Rye for the last couple of months. Thinking about trying something new.

      1. I’m partial to Buffalo Trace, and I think a few other commenters have expressed a taste for it, but Bulleit may be a step up already.

        1. Bulleit Rye is kinda spicy. Said spice tends to disappear with ice. Does make a nice Whiskey Smash.

          1. Bushmills 16 yr.

        2. not a big Buffalo Trace fan. Would rather drink Wild Turkey 101 or Makers.

        3. Buffalo Trace is good. Get a bottle Eagles Rare if you can find one.

      2. Whistle Pig.

        1. Fantastic if you can get it/afford a $90 bottle but for Half the price and wider availability I’m going with Woodford Reserve.

      3. Woodford Reserve.

      4. I’m partial to Corner Creek. A bit hard to find, but very reasonably priced.

      5. Balvenie PortWood

        1. So…

      6. Booker’s. I can’t afford it often, but I like it the best of all I’ve had.

  10. The Preserving Religious Freedom and a Woman’s Access to Contraception Act … requests that the Food and Drug Administration study whether prescription contraceptives could be made available safely to adults without a prescription

    You heard it here first! Republicans want teenagers to get pregnant!!!!

    1. Not just teens, everyone under 26!

    2. You could put it behind-the-counter instead. require a talk with the pharmacist as an in-between step between prescription drug and OTC

      1. They do that with Sudafed I believe. No prescription required but you have to ask the pharmacist for it.

        1. And then show some ID and sign a log book.

        2. that’s cause of meth. patriot act requirement, IIRC

          1. Methamphetamine Anti-proliferation Act, I believe.

      2. God forbid it be as readily available as Tylenol.

        1. ** Edit, I haven’t bought headache medicine in a while, they probably require a fucking ID for that now too.

        2. i think it’s safe enough for OTC. but the politics of of it — “it’s not safe! kids will get it!” might be countered with BTC

          1. But some young boy might use it to grow breasts!!!!!

            1. Go on…

              1. I’ve said too much.

  11. All of these debates people are having remind of something Seth Godin put on his blog. He was talking specifically about being a salesman but it really applies to anything.

    “Your first mistake might be assuming that people are rational. Your second mistake could be assuming that people are eager for change. And the marketer’s third mistake is
    assuming that once someone knows things the way you know them, they will choose what you choose.”
    – Seth Godin

  12. “Two points to McConnell for managing to give his bill a non-Orwellian name. But does McConnell’s bill “literally do nothing,” as some have claimed? At a press conference Tuesday, McConnell?who is cosponsoring the bill with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)?described it as legislation “that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives” or any other FDA-approved drug or medical device. ”

    How is it doing nothing? It’s letting Republicans running for re-election say they supported a bill that would prohibit employers from denying employees access to birth control. That is its intended purpose. Whether it passes or what it actually does is irrelevant.

    1. I kinda like the fact that it would let me bludgeon progs about how employers are legally prohibited from denying access to birth control for their employees.

  13. Dude, Mitch McConnell did something that actually kind of makes sense? Maybe I should move south of the Ohio after all…

  14. Watch the Senate Democrats (and especially Harry Reid) block this bill, followed by the NYT decrying Republican obstructionism.

    1. Republican obstructionism

      Well, what else would you call it when you obstruct Republicans. /rimshot

  15. The Preserving Religious Freedom and a Woman’s Access to Contraception Act … requests that the Food and Drug Administration study whether prescription contraceptives could be made available safely to adults without a prescription

    What happens if the bill passes, becomes law and the FDA says “no”?

    1. The status quo is preserved.

      1. How about if the burden of proof was shifted – that the FDA has to prove a drug is unsafe if used according to the directions before a prescription is required.

        The magic is that if a doctor prescribes it, insurance is obligated to pay for it. A trainee doctor wrote me a prescription for coated aspirin. The pharmacist said he had never seen that before, but went ahead and gave me a $3 bottle of aspirin which I paid the $10 copay to purchase.

        Of course, my actual problem had nothing to do with needing aspirin, but I didn’t want “non-compliant” written in red on my permanent record, do I?

  16. I suspect this bill is designed to win the news/campaign cycle. The Dems hold a vote on *their* retarded contraception bill, the Reps propose their own less-retarded bill as a substitute, the Dems with their majority reject the substitute and approve their own bill, the bill dies in the House, the Dems run ads about how the Reps voted against birth control, the Reps reply that this is a lie and they *did* vote for birth control, the voters get confused, the issue is defused, and after the election we don’t hear about it again.

    That, at least, is the best-case scenario.

  17. “I suspect this bill is designed to win the news/campaign cycle.”

    Oh, definitely. But if it’s all just for PR anyway, might as well play along and try to get more people thinking about this as an actually maybe logical solution.

  18. Can’t wait for the prog explanations of how, actually, this just proves how much Republicans hate women.

    1. Well think about it. Clearly the Republicans are trying to hurt women by giving them easier access to something that they can’t be trusted to figure out on their own because of their…uh..tiny lady brains…uh..oh wait…

      1. If they can’t find something specific in the law to bash, they’ll say it’s a gesture meant to distract the public from the Koch funded agenda to dismantle the blah blah blah.

        1. EXACTLY!!

          (liberal ‘strategist’ copies this down…”three blahs…yes, this ought to work…”)

          1. Three blahs was a typo. Should be four. [Ed]

  19. The HSA part is good too. Actually a pretty reasonable bill on McConnell’s part, does about everything I’d hope for. (Prefer to actually order the FDA to make the Pill OTC, but that would be Congress taking science into its own hands, apparently.)

    1. Why order FDA to make it OTC? Just amend the FDCA so that it is OTC.

    2. Congress has amended the FDCA many time to put in all sorts of exceptions to the rules. Most famously, a few times, with a sunset each time except the last, Congress exempted saccharine from the FDCA’s then-existing provision that required the removal from interstate commerce of any article subject to the FDCA that produced tumors in any animal.

  20. The repeal of prescription laws would be of great benefit in resolving these issues. For further information, visit my blog at “”.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.