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Shaheen & Hassan Push for Over-The-Counter Birth Control, Help Reintroduce Affordability is Access Act

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, joined U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to reintroduce their bicameral Affordability is Access Act. The legislation would ensure that once the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any fees or out-of-pocket costs. Companion legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives. The introduction comes after the FDA Advisory Committee’s unanimous vote recommending that the FDA move forward to approve the first-ever application for over-the-counter birth control.  

Recent polling has found that nearly 8 in 10 voters have a favorable view of birth control pills and more than 7 in 10 support making the pill available over-the-counter.  The Affordability is Access Act addresses the reality that for many—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability. 

“As women’s comprehensive access to reproductive health care services are rolled back, curtailed or cut off by extreme GOP-controlled state legislatures, every effort must be made to keep this essential care within reach. That’s why it’s paramount that Congress is proactive to put measures in place that will keep over-the-counter birth control affordable for all Americans, pending the FDA’s final determination,” said Shaheen. “I urge the FDA to move swiftly and follow in the footsteps of the Advisory Committee to make birth control available to women over-the-counter, and for Senate leadership to act in tandem so we can ensure it’s accessible to anyone who seeks it.” 

“The ability to access and afford birth control can be a central part of a woman’s reproductive freedom,” said Hassan. “While anti-choice extremists are focused on stripping away a woman’s fundamental rights, it’s more important than ever that we take steps to protect a woman’s freedom. Our bill ensures that if the FDA makes birth control available over the counter, women who want it can afford to get it. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this commonsense legislation.” 

Under the Affordable Care Act, all private health insurance plans are required to fully cover — without copays or out-of-pocket costs — all U.S. FDA-approved, granted, or cleared methods of contraception. The Affordability is Access Act would ensure that this also applies to over-the-counter birth control. The Affordability is Access Act would also maintain the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over the counter without a prescription, and ensure retailers provide contraception without a prescription. The legislation states that any retailer that stocks contraception that the FDA has approved, granted, or cleared without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception. 

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). 

The bill is endorsed by: Contraceptive Access Initiative (CAI), National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), National Health Law Program, Upstream USA, Reproductive Health Access Project, American Humanist Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women & Families, Healthy Teen Network, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The American College of Nurse-Midwives, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access (CECA), The Guttmacher Institute, Power to Decide, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH), National Coalition of STD Directors, Ibis Reproductive Health, Population Connection Action Fund, The Center for Biological Diversity, National Council of Jewish Women, Collaborative, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, National Women’s Law Center, American Public Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Advocates for Youth, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Catholics for Choice, and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.   

Read the full text of the Affordability is Access Act here.  

Shaheen and Hassan are steadfast defenders of women’s reproductive freedom. In recent weeks, Shaheen has led two initiatives to specifically protect servicewomen’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services, which include bringing costs for contraceptives for those who rely on TRICARE in line with what civilians pay, as well as providing paid leave for abortion and other reproductive care needs. For years, Shaheen has fought to expand coverage of women’s reproductive health and successfully pushed an effort through Congress that was signed into law to ensure servicewomen have access to abortions in cases of rape or incest. Shaheen and Hassan recently helped reintroduce the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Healthcare (EACH) Act, a bicameral bill that would help guarantee abortion coverage—without restrictions—for millions of Americans. Senators Shaheen and Hassan are also leaders in the fight to protect Title X family planning centers