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Kaine, Murray, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined HELP Chair Patty Murray, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in introducing the Affordability is Access Act (AAA) to ensure that people across the country can access and afford over-the-counter birth control options and plan their own reproductive health, on their own terms. The Affordability is Access Act would ensure that once the FDA determines an over-the-counter birth control option to be safe, it approves it without delay. It would also ensure that insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs. A new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans support expanding access to birth control: 71% said they support allowing birth control to be sold over-the-counter. 

“All Americans should have access to comprehensive, affordable health care, including over-the-counter birth control,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to support this critical legislation that will empower women to make decisions that are best for their health, economic security, and future family planning.” 

“No one should have to jump through ridiculous hoops or pay extra just to get the birth control they need—because birth control impacts women’s health, their bodily autonomy, their wallets, and their economic security,” said Senator Murray. “Across the country, Republicans are fighting to roll back the clock on reproductive rights and control women’s choices about if and when to start a family—but Democrats are fighting back just as hard. We know that women across America don’t want politicians making it harder to get birth control, they want to free the pill—and this bill will do just that, by ensuring women can get the birth control they need without a prescription or out-of-pocket costs.”  

“Women have a right to control their bodies and their futures—that includes if, when, and how to start a family. With far-right Republican governors and state legislatures passing archaic bans on abortion and a radical Supreme Court set to overturn 50 years of precedent, we need to make sure every single person can access and afford birth control,” said Senator Hirono. “There is an all-out assault on reproductive freedom—and we’re just weeks away from women across the country waking up to find out they no longer have a constitutional right to an abortion. We’re fighting back—and that starts with passing this legislation.”    

“Birth control is essential health care, and it has helped thousands of Nevadans stay healthy and in control of their reproductive choices,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to protect women’s access to safe and affordable family planning options, and I’ll keep fighting to ensure that everyone who wants and needs birth control has easy access to quality, affordable care.” 

The legislation addresses the reality that true access requires affordability. The Affordability is Access Act (AAA) would: 

  • Ensure coverage of comprehensive preventive health services and expand coverage to include full access to oral contraception for routine, daily over-the-counter use for all. All private health insurance plans are now required to cover all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception. The Act would ensure coverage of all oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription. 
  • Maintain the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription. It is imperative that the entities that research and develop oral contraceptives, and whose medical and scientific experts have developed clinical and other evidence that birth control pills are safe and effective when sold without a prescription, apply to the FDA for review and approval for sale without a prescription. Upon the receipt of such an application, the FDA must determine whether the contraceptive product meets the rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality standards for over-the-counter use established by the agency Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If the product meets these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay. 
  • Ensure retailers provide oral contraception without a prescription. The Act states that any retailer that stocks oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception. 

In addition to Kaine, Murray, Hirono, and Cortez Masto, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Brown, Baldwin, Reed, Schatz, Blumenthal, Markey, Smith, Menendez, Merkley, Sanders, Cantwell, Whitehouse, Gillibrand, Heinrich, Klobuchar, Wyden, Stabenow, Booker, Rosen, Warren, Shaheen, Duckworth, Hassan, Bennet, Feinstein, Peters, Padilla, Leahy, and Murphy. 

The legislation is endorsed by: Reproductive Equity Now, Power to Decide, Catholics for Choice, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Women's Law Center, Reproductive Health Access Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Contraceptive Access Initiative, NARAL Pro-Choice America, American Atheists, American Public Health Association, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, Upstream USA, Center for Reproductive Rights, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health Women's Health, Population Connection Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Health Law Program, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access (CECA), Advocates for Youth, Ibis Reproductive Health. 

Full text of the bill is available here.