Hardly Anybody’s Buying Cory Gardner’s Birth Control “Sham”

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Freshman Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado unveiled his long-awaited proposal to make oral contraceptives available over the counter last week, nominally keeping a major campaign promise but opening himself to new criticism as the details of his plan are unpacked by experts. Last Friday, Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post highlighted the objections of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to Gardner’s proposal, who say it “would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.”

Today, after more experts and advocacy groups have had a chance to look at the bill, the criticism continues to pile on. The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reports today:

The Colorado Republican’s push to make birth control available over-the-counter is not winning him more allies among women’s reproductive health groups…

Groups like Planned Parenthood have opposed the idea, which they argue could drive up contraception prices.

The group has pointed to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate — requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control — and said that insurers may no longer cover the medication if it’s not prescribed by a doctor.

Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check:

Gardner was one of many Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm elections who campaigned on expanding “access” to birth control by making it available over the counter. Reproductive health advocates said that this was a cynical way for candidates to downplay their extreme anti-choice views on issues like anti-choice fetal “personhood,” which Gardner has supported throughout his political career.

The proposed Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act would waive the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) filing fee and expedite the application review process to encourage manufacturers of “routine-use contraceptives” to apply to the FDA for over-the-counter (OTC) status, according to Gardner’s website…

As Salon’s Katie McDonough explains, this legislation doesn’t do anything except ensure that women who now pay nothing for their contraceptives will start paying:

Birth control is expensive. Oral contraceptives can cost, in some places, more than $600 a year. And that cost can be prohibitive for women already struggling to support themselves. And as funding cuts to family planning clinics continue to devastate access for low-income women, making full-price birth control available over the counter does virtually nothing to counter that…

And no cost reduction through market force could match what’s offered by the new healthcare law: no cost. There simply is no competing with zero dollars when it comes to access. [Pols emphasis] And Joshua Cohen, a health economist at Tufts University, told FiveThirtyEight that such measures may improve convenience, but not cost. “Any improvement in access is likely to be merely a convenience issue,” he said. But that women “would pay more out-of-pocket for the OTC contraceptive than they would for the prescription product.”

Which brings us to the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett, and the most important reason this proposal is being offered at all–to undercut the requirement in Obamacare that contraception be covered through a guaranteed health insurance benefit with no co-pay at all. Think Hobby Lobby:

[T]he proposal also represents a GOP end run around the Affordable Care Act provision that requires most employers to cover the full range of contraception at no cost to women. Republicans have long opposed and even pledged to repeal that rule because they claim it violates the religious freedom rights of employers who are morally opposed to birth control.

The mandatory contraception coverage under Obamacare applies only to birth control that requires a prescription. So if this bill resulted in various forms of routine-use contraception being sold over the counter, they would not have to be covered by insurance. [Pols emphasis]

On the campaign trail last year, Gardner used this proposal for over-the-counter oral contraceptives to counter allegations that, as a longtime supporter of the “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures, he had effectively advocated for a ban on common forms of birth control. Despite the fact that the birth control restrictions that would result from passage of “Personhood” were well known to all sides of the debate as far back as 2008, Gardner insisted that he “had not realized” the initiative would have this effect until much more recently. As our readers know, a very large amount of oxygen in the 2014 U.S. Senate race was expended on trying to pin “Personhood’s” worst potential effects on Gardner, which Gardner outlasted via blanket denials that eventually fatigued the public’s interest.

In retrospect, it worked brilliantly–and for low-information voters who don’t know the details, Gardner just “kept his promise,” even as medical experts and pro-choice advocates cry foul to anyone who will listen. The bill is of course never going to become law under President Barack Obama, but that’s not the point.

Because this is not about passing anything, or even helping women get contraceptives. It’s about, as GOP consultant Katy Atkinson candidly admitted last year of Gardner’s women’s health agenda, “muddying it up” enough to confound the politics of birth control and abortion, and helping Gardner complete his reinvention from a conservative “social issue warrior” into an electable mainstream politician.

With all of this in mind, it’s easier to understand why pro-choice advocates are so angry over this proposal. It’s not sour grapes over 2014, more like proof that what they said about Gardner’s reproductive choice “con job” last year…was right.

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Moderatus says:

    Still trying to refight 2014? Why not just admit that Gardner kept his promise and be done with it?

    Thanks, Sen. Gardner, for making Colorado Pols see red once again.

  2. MADCO says:

    Yeah- but it's all ok, 'cuz  Senator was too centrist corporarist.  And it's not like anything Senator Gardner could actually mean anything. 

  3. mamajama55 says:

    Steve Benen on the Maddow blog has a nice short piece on this.

    In other words, the Gardner solution tells poor women, “If you want birth control, go buy it. If you can’t afford it, good luck.”

    For that matter, just as a matter of basic human biology, an IUD can’t just be sold over the counter at a local drug store.

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a non-profit organization of women’s health doctors, generally supports making contraception available over the counter, but the group nevertheless announced its opposition to the Gardner/Ayotte bill late last week.

  4. BlueCat says:

    Regardless of who's buying what, Modster is right about one thing (Ouch.. that hurt). Gardner won the election. He's our Senator through (let's see, carry the one) 2020. There's no way to cut that short. He's a phony. Not exactly a news flash. We already knew that and the people who strongly support him don't care. They assumed it was a wink, wink deal all along. If they can't prevent women from accessing birth control, they're fine with making it as unaffordable as possible.

    The people who could have gone either way but chose him do not have this concern at the top of their priority list. They say they aren't one issue voters and didn't think much of Udall's one issue campaign.  A significant number of registered Dem and unaffiliated women voters I talked to while canvassing told me just that and that they think Dem candidates like Udall are "extremist" on abortion. That's the impression left by the all choice all the time and pretty much nothing on economic issues ads. All birth control, a closely related 'women's" issue, all the time will not be any more successful in winning these voters.

    Talking about Gardner in connection with these "women's" issues (as if all issues aren't women's issues because women are self centered creatures only capable of caring about lady parts stuff and don't understand "manly" issues like the economy, infrastructure, job creation) is fine. Yes. People should know that OTC doesn't mean what they think it means… expanded access. But talking about nothing but these issues in connection with Gardner just reinforces the idea that this is the only thing Dems care about and that they have nothing else to offer in the way of getting your vote. The "He's dishonest" thing is of limited value since most voters assume pols in general aren't the most honest people on the planet anyway.

    I'd like to see something, anything, turn up here, in the progressive leaning media, in ads, in comments from Dem pols on TV, anywhere, on any one of the many other excellent, sensible reasons why electing Gardner and other Rs was a mistake that shouldn't be repeated and that would be made worse by Colorado voters electing another R to join him in 2016.

    If Colorado voters demonstrated anything in 2014 it's that, even though the women's vote is crucial to electing Dems, this is not the one set of issues that will get enough of that vote. Leaving the mistaken impression that "women's" issues are the only ones Dems are better on is not a winning message here in Colorado. No need to give up on including that and other social issues in messaging but there's a very obvious need, as the results of the 2014 elections clearly demonstrate, to expand the scope of the messaging to economic and jobs issues where Dems inexplicably cede the high ground to Rs despite the fact that R economic policies are not more daddy style responsible but complete and utter failures for all but a few at the top.

    Women disproportionately suffer the affects of failed rightie economic policy and care very much about a better, more secure, upwardly mobile economic future for their children, male and female. Could we please spend a little time pointing to all the reasons why Republicans like Gardner are lousy choices for those aspirations, not just to choice and birth control? Aaarrrgghh!

  5. notaskinnycook says:

    The question I haven't seen asked yet is, what makes Dem. candidates (Udall) think "all lady parts all the time" is a winning strategy? It obviously isn't, but I'm not seeing much of a shift toward those other issues in early campaigning for '16. How do we get their attention so they don't do the same stupid thing again?

    • BlueCat says:

      Wish I knew. Volunteers expressing dismay at every opportunity made not a dent. We're just bumpkins who don't understand sophisticated strategery like all the experts from out of state do. Even if we've been knocking on doors and talking to people in our districts for 10 or 15 years. We little fly over people just don't know WTF we're talking about. They probably think it wasn't the strategy. Just a bad election year. 

    • mamajama55 says:

      Some of these younger (and I'm talking barely-need-to-shave) consultants came from OFA training in Chicago. Some of them are seasoned pros who should've  known better. I'm not going to name names here, but these folks did the same thing around the anti-recall effort in Pueblo.

      It was all-lady-parts all the time, barely even talked about guns and gun control, or Angela Giron's many accomplishments as a Senator. I got really tired of all the sad-women direct mail pieces in my mailbox. I don't know if the anti-recall effort in Morse's district  did the same. My sense is that the big donors were calling the shots.

      And no, they did not want to hear what the locals had to say about hitting the wrong notes, for all the vaunted OFA "community organizing-leadership-is-a-snowflake" model.

      Here's a tip on female reproduction for the young male field organizers – those of us who lived through the years before Roe v Wade, and know what life was like for women before abortion was legalized – we're too old to have babies now.  The young women of reproductive age – they think it's all taken care of, that nobody's going to take away their right to access contraceptives or abortion. Single issue reproductive rights campaigns are not going to drive their votes to any one candidate. The economy, jobs, health care in general, justice and equality – that gets their pulses ticking and those ballot pencils scratching.

      It's like the more the focus – on- abortion strategy doesn't work, the more they think they have to double down on it, and next time, next time, it will do the trick and win the day.



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