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Birth control debate divides Senate elections

Midterm elections are just around the corner, and already four Republican Senate candidates — Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, Ed Gillespie and Mike McFadden — have proposed an over-the-counter birth-control pill, according to the Washington Post. Whether they are offering this proposal as a replacement to the contraception mandate in ObamaCare or if their intentions are to maximize access to birth control is unclear.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, prevention coverage under the Affordable Care Act offers women mammograms, pap smears, and as of August 2011, access to a full range of FDA-approved birth control without co-payments or cost. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that the number of prescriptions for oral contraceptives with no co-pay more than quadrupled from 2012 to 2013, which the Institute for Healthcare Informatics revealed saved women an estimated $483.3 million in 2013.

Women’s Resource Center Program Coordinator Malkia Hutchinson said the over-the-counter pill would allow women to have more of a choice, so long as the insurance coverage for other birth control methods stay in place.

“I think it’s a good choice for women to have,” Hutchinson said. “But I definitely don’t think the contraception mandate should be repealed, because it’s beneficial for women regardless if their religion believes in it or not.”

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Communications Specialist Alejandra Diaz said she believes this is a political scheme and part of an ongoing effort by politicians to eliminate birth control coverage and force women to once again pay up to $600 a year out-of-pocket.

“Proposals to make birth control over-the-counter ignore the fact that birth control is not one size fits all,” Diaz said. “Planned Parenthood supports making it available over-the-counter, in addition to requiring insurance plans to cover it, not instead of requiring no copay coverage. Women deserve both — not either or.”

Christine Melchor of the Houston Coalition for Life, said she opposes the proposal that would eliminate the need for a prescription because she was concerned this could lead to a misuse of the pill.

“This would be a disservice to the young girls of our country,” Melchor said. “There are many young girls who might already be pregnant and use the pill irresponsibly, causing irrevocable damage to their bodies.”

Philosophy senior Priscilla Garcia said the only reason she could think of for proposing an over-the-counter pill would be a desire to get rid of government funding for birth control and minimizing the options women have.

“Why fix something that’s not broken?” Garcia said. “If women are being covered and not having to pay for birth control, then why are they trying to find an alternative?”

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