A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that could potentially forever change health care for Americans. Over-the-counter birth control would become free and accessible if this new bill becomes law, ensuring that people face as few barriers as possible to when it comes to contraceptive choice.
The bill is known as the Affordability is Access Act (AAA). The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Patty Murray, along with several other legislators. The bill would mandate insurance "coverage of all oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription," according to a news release.
Right now, most insurance plans have to cover the cost of oral contraception, which is currently only available via prescription. This bill would make it easier for people to acquire oral contraception by eliminating the prescription requirement, but still keeping the insurance coverage mandate in place.
The bill's Democratic sponsors have encouraged their Republican colleagues to sign on to the bill, particularly because many of them, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have espoused support for over-the-counter birth control. However, Republicans' reluctance to support the bill so far perhaps lends some insight into a political tactic used by conservatives to thwart mandating insurance coverage for birth control.
This legislation is a "challenge to Republicans who have yet to support ensuring any FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control is covered by insurance without cost-sharing and without requiring a prescription," the news release read.
This legislation comes on the heels of a Twitter proposal from Cruz to Ocasio-Cortez suggesting that the two of them work together on a bill to make over-the-counter birth control available — an issue which the senator supposedly supports.
After Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that birth control should be available over-the-counter, Cruz responded, "I agree. Perhaps, in addition to the legislation we are already working on together to ban Members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, we can team up here as well. A simple, clean bill making birth control available over the counter. Interested?'
Pressley responded to that tweet by suggesting that Cruz sign on to the Affordability is Access Act if he truly wants to ensure that over-the-counter birth control is available. "Hi there @tedcruz hit up our girl @pattymurray she and I have already written the bill, album dropping tomorrow @AOC's vocals (& original co sponsorship) = on point," Pressley wrote. "KatieHill4CA’s an original too. Just call it the Destiny's Child of OTC birth control."
Ocasio-Cortez retweeted Pressley's response to Cruz instead of replying herself. Murray also issued her own tweet asking Cruz to support the legislation.
Thus far, Cruz has not replied to any of these tweets and has not indicated that he will be supporting the congresswomen's new bill. Bustle reached out to Cruz's office to inquire about his position on the legislation, but has not yet received a reply.
After the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to cover contraception during the Obama administration, many Republicans started to float the idea of making birth control available over-the-counter in the hopes that the insurance contraceptive mandate would be eliminated if over-the-counter birth control became an option, as ThinkProgress laid out. However, as the Democratic legislators pointed out in their press release about the new bill, having over-the-counter birth control doesn't help anyone very much unless it's also made affordable through insurance coverage.
As the Democratic lawmakers suggested, Republican support for this bill would indicate a true commitment to ensuring that Americans have accessible birth control. However, a lack of support further highlights the idea that the conservative push for over-the-counter birth control may have been politically motivated.