Will GOPs Back Jindal's Push to Put the Pill OTC?
At American pharmacies, a woman can get the controversial morning-after pill without a prescription but not the basic daily pill for issues ranging from birth control to painful periods.
One conservative Republican says it's time to put contraception over the counter, in accordance with recent guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, eliminating the mandate that has angered religious employers and taking the wind out of the Democrats' sails on "birth-control politics."
As a Roman Catholic, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal understands why groups have filed suit against the Obama administration's mandate to provide birth control without co-payment.
"As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control. It's a disingenuous political argument they make," Jindal wrote last week in the Wall Street Journal.
"As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others. And parents who believe, as I do, that their teenage children shouldn't be involved with sex at all do not deserve ridicule," he added.
Jindal contends that continuing the status quo would needlessly add to healthcare costs while lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.
"Contraception is a personal matter — the government shouldn't be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman's employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so," he wrote.
But will the GOP sign on to this plan to defuse a combustible Dem talking point (see most of the 2012 DNC)?
It's difficult to tell right now. Jindal's op-ed was published mere hours before the Newtown, Conn., school shooting seized the headlines -- and the attention of every lawmaker on Capitol Hill, turning the lame-duck narrative toward a gun control debate.
Liberals are split on Jindal's call, simultaneously praising him for an enlightened viewpoint and accusing him of pandering to independent and Democratic voters while not-so-secretly wanting to torpedo the controversial ObamaCare mandate.
"Jindal understands that, like it or not, Democrats were quite successful at demagoguing Republicans this year over their opposition to the contraception mandate. And yet, the Republican base is still dead set against the idea that 'religious institutions' should be required to pay for contraceptives for their employees. How to square this circle?" wrote Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. "Easy: if contraceptives are sold over the counter, then the issue disappears."
Putting the pill over the counter gives contraception advocates the universal access they wanted - more women would use it without a doctor's visit being required. But some argue that access will be restricted if there's any out-of-pocket expense - even if going over the counter knocks the price down as expected and is comparable to buying a box of Pepcid or Claritin. They also contend that other, more expensive contraceptives such as IUDs should still be covered through a government mandate, and that kids under 18 should have access to the pill, too. See Sandra Fluke for this train of thought.
“The idea here is that, oh, OK, now we have to pay for it again? To me that sounds like thanks but no thanks. We won the election, thanks," Christina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, told the Daily Beast in reaction to Jindal's op-ed.
One can't imagine that opposing OTC contraceptives would look good to voters in either party who want convenience and savings and would cheer at the idea of not having to go through a doctor to get a pill they may have been using for years.
Not to say that opposition won't come from Jindal's side, though, in the form of social conservatives who just wouldn't want wider access to birth control.