Why Does Planned Parenthood Oppose OTC Contraception?

Why Does Planned Parenthood Oppose OTC Contraception?

Byron York has a comprehensive piece on the welcome Republican effort to end the birth control wars, a push for access begun by Bobby Jindal and now embraced by an increasing number of Senate candidates advocating for over the counter availability of the pill.

The idea is to make the birth control pill available over the counter, to all, 24/7, without a prescription. It’s becoming a trend among Republican candidates in Senate races around the country. In North Carolina, GOP candidate Thom Tillis recently embraced it. So has Ed Gillespie in Virginia. Mike McFadden in Minnesota. Gardner in Colorado. And one of the leading proponents of the move is a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The most intense debate over the idea has taken place in Colorado, where Gardner unveiled a birth control TV commercial last week…

Gardner first rolled out the proposal in a Denver Post op-ed in June. The birth control pill has safely been in use since it was first approved 44 years ago, Gardner argued. “When other drugs have that kind of track record, we approve them for purchase without a prescription,” he wrote. “Name-brand drugs like Advil, Pepcid, Claritin, Prilosec and many others were once sold by prescription only, but moved to over-the-counter sale once they’d been proven safe and unlikely to be abused.” Democrats reacted with an almost sputtering rage. How dare a Republican try to move in on their issue!

Particularly in a way which sides with the majority of a 60-33 split when the idea is polled. But interestingly enough, Planned Parenthood is pushing back on over-the-counter contraception.

Why is this? Why would Planned Parenthood want to decrease the availability of contraception, and require women to see a doctor in order to get it? That seems awfully paternalistic of them. But according to Planned Parenthood, it’s about the fact that this over-the-counter push just amounts to access to the widest used forms of oral contraception instead of other forms, and that if put into place, it will force women to have to pay for it, just like they do for Advil or Pepcid or Claritin, instead of having their employer paying their insurer and then having the insurer pay for it, as the laws of nature intended.

That makes sense, of course. It’s also certainly a total coincidence that birth control is a major lead generator for Planned Parenthood, to the degree that they can’t afford to lose their existing purpose as a source of prescribed contraception without it hurting their status as an institution. Pages 16 and 17 of this report break out what percentage of Planned Parenthood’s “services” are related to contraception – it’s over a third of their activity, and the breakdown on page 16 shows that it’s overwhelmingly oral contraception (and less than 5 percent of their business is IUDs).

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Now you can understand why they wouldn’t want potential customers to be free to go to CVS or Walgreens or Rite Aid instead of heading to Planned Parenthood – providing those and other services is worth a lot of taxpayer money, $540 million in FY 2012 alone. And if you don’t provide those services, you can’t bill the taxpayers for them.

Planned Parenthood’s hypocrisy here is borne out of their interest in survival as an institution, an impetus for rent-seeking over access. The existing and arbitrary government barrier to over-the-counter oral contraception is a major path to how they get customers in the door, and they know it. That’s why they want to keep the government’s ban on over-the-counter birth control intact.

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.
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