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Murray, Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Bera, Hirono, Cortez Masto Unveil Bill to Expand Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

***WATCH: Murray, Pressley hold press conference on effort to expand birth control access***


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA-07), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced 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 lives, on their own terms.


As Republicans work around the clock to rob people of the ability to plan a family on their own terms—including by banning abortion and attacking access to birth control—Democrats are focused on making sure people can get the birth control they need without being forced to pay out-of-pocket or jump through unnecessary hoops. 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—and would ensure that insurers then fully cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs. The legislation addresses the reality that for many—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability.


A new poll released today shows strong, bipartisan support for expanding access to birth control: 71% of Americans say they support allowing birth control to be sold over-the-counter, and 84% say that expanding access to birth control is important with the Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v. Wade.


“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.”


“With this far-right Supreme Court and anti-choice legislatures across the country stopping at nothing to attack our reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, we must use every tool available to protect reproductive health care and affirm it as the fundamental human right that it is,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Our bill would help us do just that by ensuring birth control is affordable and accessible to all and affirming a person’s fundamental right to make decisions about their body, when to start a family, and their future. Our work to protect our reproductive freedom is far from finished and we’re not backing down in this fight.”


“As a doctor, I know access to affordable contraception is critical for women’s reproductive health. It enables women to live healthier lives and enhances their economic security and well-being,” said Congressman Bera, M.D. “I am proud to introduce this important piece of legislation, which stands in stark contrast to Republican efforts to undermine women’s health care and roll back access to birth control. I’ll keep fighting to ensure women have access to quality, affordable healthcare—including access to full reproductive health services.” 


“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.”


“Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly support eliminating needless barriers for people seeking to prevent pregnancy,” Contraceptive Access Initiative (CAI) Co-founder Dana Singiser said. “More than six decades of safety data about the pill and a national reproductive health crisis should motivate the FDA to prioritize the review process moving toward approval. We applaud Senator Murray and Representative Pressley’s leadership on ensuring that everyone has the means to access this safe and highly effective contraception.”


“Removing barriers to safe and effective birth control is an urgent reproductive health access and equity issue,” said Power to Decide CEO and practicing OB-GYN Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, M.D., M.P.H. “That’s especially true for people in rural communities and communities of color, who already face systemic roadblocks to getting the health care they need.” 


“In my own practice, I have seen how barriers such as cost and access to providers can limit the options available to my patients and make it harder for them to access the contraceptive method that meets their needs,” added Dr. McDonald-Mosley. “Far too often, after counseling my patients, assessing the risks and benefits of each type of birth control, and helping them identify a method that works best for them, we find that the price tag or lack of availability places it out of reach. Many more people may not be able to get a timely appointment with a provider in the first place. The Affordability is Access Act would expand access to birth control not only for the 19 million women living in contraceptive deserts, but for people in every part of the country. By expanding access to contraception, we are supporting everyone’s right to protect their health and determine their own future.” 


"Affordability is key to ensuring all of us can access contraception. Birth control pills are safe and effective, and are very popular methods. As we get closer to the day when we can access birth control pills over the counter, we must ensure that they are affordable and fully covered by insurance. We're working to ensure that everyone can access the birth control they need, however much money they have," said Kelly Blanchard, President of Ibis Reproductive Health.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by: Senators Murray, Hirono, Cortez Masto, Brown, Baldwin, Reed, Schatz, Blumenthal, Markey, Smith, Menendez, Kaine, 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: 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, Population Connection Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Health Law Program, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access (CECA), Advocates for Youth, and Ibis Reproductive Health.


The Affordability is Access Act will:


  • 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, as established by the 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.


Read full text of the Affordability is Access Act here.