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.