Republican U.S. senators Corey Gardner and Kelly Ayotte recently sponsored a bill that would ease the Food and Drug Administration application process for drug companies attempting to sell the birth control pill over the counter (OTC).
Democrats and Planned Parenthood responded with accusations that the Republican bill was disingenuous. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, called the GOP bill an “insult to women.” Attempting a counterattack, Senate Democrats lead by Patty Murray (D-Washington) sponsored the Affordability Is Access Act.
Democrats are still not playing straight on this issue. The Democrat Party is placing its campaign-contributing special interest, Planned Parenthood, above what is best for poor American women.
Senate Democrats’ Fake OTC Plan
Left-wing pundits fawned over the Democrats’ bill because it would “allow insurance-covered birth-control pills to be sold over the counter.” Planned Parenthood piled on, flatly claiming Democrat Patty Murray’s proposal “would make the birth control pill available over-the-counter.” These statements grossly misrepresent the Democrats’ bill.
First, the Left’s cheerleaders almost uniformly fail to point out the competing Republican proposal. Second, while the two bills are very different, it is the Senate Democrats’ bill that reeks of deception.
While the GOP bill would ease the FDA’s application process for birth-control pill manufacturers, Murray’s “Affordability is Access Act” would do nothing to help the birth-control pill gain FDA approval for OTC status. According to The Hill, “[u]nlike the Republican bill, Murray’s bill would not provide incentives for insurance companies to offer birth control available over the counter.”
What does the Democrat bill do? The only thing Murray’s legislation says is that if the FDA someday grants OTC status to birth control, then the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) contraception mandate will cover it. In other words, the Democrats’ bill preserves the status quo. According to Murray: “We have to be very careful not to put political pressure on the FDA without going through the regular process… I do think at some point, birth control will be offered over the counter, and when that happens, our bill makes sure insurance companies still cover it.”
At best, Murray’s bill is unnecessary. If the FDA ever grants OTC status to the birth-control pill, the White House will mandate that insurance companies cover it OTC, just as it did with Plan B. In other words, Senate Democrats’ proposed legislation is pointless. The real problem is getting the FDA to approve the birth-control pill for OTC use, which should eventually cause cost-of-access to decline through market forces. Here, Congress can do something if it finds a way to ease the already politicized FDA approval-process. Only the Republican bill attempts to do this.
So Murray’s bill does nothing to make the birth-control pill available OTC, while Democrats and the rest of the Left have the audacity to dismiss the Gardner-Ayotte proposal as disingenuous. But the Gardner-Ayotte proposal would do considerably more than the Democrat bill to make the pill available OTC, and includes a provision to help poor uninsured women pay for the pill via health savings accounts (HSAs). These savings accounts don’t threaten Obamacare, they simply help the uninsured not covered by Obamacare, which is well over 30 million Americans. What explains the Democratic Party’s deception on OTC birth control?
The Left Politicizes Everything, Even Birth Control
The Left has long committed to obfuscating about birth control, and the record of such extends beyond the debate about making the pill available OTC, or the “war on women.” The Left’s infatuation with the intrauterine device (IUD) provides a good example.
A time-worn attack on conservatives coming from the Left goes as follows: (1) Although taxpayers spend millions in Title X and Medicaid dollars every year towards providing birth control to low-income women, high unintended birth rates among America’s poor persist due to a lack of resources. (2) Because poor women face unique stresses that render normal birth-control measures, such as the pill, prone to human error, Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), such as the IUD, provide the answer. And (3) Republicans are against IUDs, which shows they really don’t care about reducing abortions.
The Left even went so far as to use this line of thinking to take credit for the trending decline in U.S. abortions. But the Left’s argument is driven by politics, not the search for truth.
First, the Left’s line of reasoning can’t explain why unintended birth rates among poor women increased dramatically in the 1990s, as poor women somehow lost access to basic birth control (see graph). Did the stresses associated with poverty dramatically increase?
Second, the decline of U.S. abortions should be attributed to cultural factors, not greater IUD use. The drop in abortions is linked to a decline in teen pregnancies, and only 5 percent of women aged 15 to 24 are using LARCs. The greatest jump in LARC use has actually occurred among 25- to 34-year-olds, of whom 11 percent now use a LARC. This matters because 25- to 34-year-olds, where we see the highest increases in LARC use, didn’t have a high abortion rate to begin with. The most-likely explanation for the falling number of abortions is that teens are having less sex, and when unintended pregnancies do occur the mother is more likely to carry the pregnancy to term.
Third, the Left knows many conservatives have a problem with public funding for IUDs, because of the increased costs to taxpayers and the destruction of fertilized human eggs IUDs cause. The Left rarely mentions another LARC that is equally effective but doesn’t destroy nascent human life, the contraceptive implant. The implant is much more popular than the IUD among American women. In fact, of the 7 percent of American women who use a LARC, a majority use the implant, not the IUD. One wonders why we only hear about the IUD from the Left’s appendages in the media.
Fourth, although the Left pretends public funding doesn’t already go towards IUDs, all states currently cover IUDs through Medicaid and Title X funds. This is nothing new. IUDs were covered with public money even before the ACA’s passage, and before U.S. abortions started dropping. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s top advocate of IUDs, only provides LARCs to 9 percent of its customer base (over 6 percent of customers receive IUDs), a rate only 2 percent higher than the national average of LARC use. This occurs although the vast majority of Planned Parenthood patients are covered by Medicaid or Title X, and both programs cover all LARCs, including IUDs.
Democrats’ Favorite Special Interest Group
What does the IUD have to do with Senate Democrats’ faux attempt at OTC birth control? The Left’s obfuscation in all areas concerning birth control is driven by messaging from Planned Parenthood, the Democrat Party’s cash-rich campaign supporter. The goal is to distract from the substandard medical outcomes among Planned Parenthood’s customer base and protect the Planned Parenthood business model.
Planned Parenthood has a monopoly on publicly funded family-planning care in many poor urban areas. As a result, customers have nowhere else to turn for prescription birth control. Because Planned Parenthood’s financial margins are low or nonexistent when providing contraception and high when providing abortion, the organization has an incentive to undersupply birth control to its clientele, which creates greater demand for abortion.
As result, Planned Parenthood’s customer base—poor, urban, and disproportionately minority—experiences a high rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
But Planned Parenthood receives half a billion dollars every year—half its revenues—from two government programs, Medicaid and Title X, as very few Planned Parenthood customers have private insurance coverage. Because the vast majority of this funding aims to provide birth control to low-income women, Planned Parenthood needs a scapegoat for the high unplanned births among its customer base. Enter the IUD.
The greatest beneficiary of OTC birth control would be uninsured women, who face an incredibly high rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions because of Planned Parenthood. If the birth-control pill were available OTC, Planned Parenthood’s power over this market would be reduced, as poor women would no longer be forced to frequent Planned Parenthood in order to access the birth control pill. So Planned Parenthood trashes the Gardner-Ayotte proposal because it would actually help poor uninsured women gain contraceptive access, while it praises the Senate Democrats’ bill that accomplishes nothing. This protects its business model.
The Left Is the Real Purveyor of a War on Women
Remember how poor American women somehow lost access to basic birth control in the 1990s? Interestingly, the loss of birth-control access corresponded with an increase in Planned Parenthood’s market share.
The Democrat Party can continue its birth-control deception, but the more it does so, the more it exposes how beholden Democrats are to Planned Parenthood. The Democrat Party receives millions in campaign donations from Planned Parenthood every year, and Democrats can count on the Planned Parenthood propaganda machine to support Democrats and disparage Republicans.
In return, the Democrat Party does Planned Parenthood’s bidding, including holding up a bill to help victims of sex-trafficking. But what if this special interest has an overwhelming incentive to produce shoddy results, harming poor American women?
How Conservatives Move Forward
The GOP has an opportunity here to aggressively push through the Gardner-Ayotte proposal and watch as Democrats and Planned Parenthood lobbyists fall all over themselves to explain their opposition. At the state level, GOP legislators could also enable behind-the-counter access by allowing pharmacists to prescribe the pill. A Republican is working on this in Oregon, and a similar measure is being implemented in California. Doing so could significantly harm Planned Parenthood’s control over its customer base.
The GOP should also stop being so defensive about birth control, and use the example of OTC birth control as a lesson on the inherent compassion of conservatism, which values markets and choice over moneyed special interests. Gardner and Ayotte show the way forward, but more Republicans should go on the attack.
The next time the Democrat Party, Planned Parenthood, and various media outlets try to blame high unintended birth rates on conservatives, remember which organization taxpayers hand millions every year to provide contraception to low-income women. What are the results to show for this, and why does this organization oppose OTC birth control?
The next time the Left’s talking-heads trot out the time-worn line about the need for more IUD-use, remember that unintended births shot up in the 1990s because poor women lost access to basic birth control, not the IUD. Ask the Left why poor women lost basic birth control.
And the next time the Left uses its stale argument on IUDs, ask the Left why nobody talks about the contraceptive implant. The implant doesn’t destroy human life, but is as effective as the IUD. Is the Left trying to find common ground if they only mention IUDs? Maybe the Left isn’t so serious about reducing unintended births after all.