Politics is making strange bedfellows again out of archconservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and far-left liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Two weeks after making headlines for a pledge to work together on legislation prohibiting members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez are on the same side of another issue.
Cruz reached out to the freshman lawmaker Wednesday on Twitter in response to a tweet in which she called for birth control to be made available over the counter.
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? https://t.co/7kh3kqxN1w— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 12, 2019
Under current law, birth control pills are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and women are required to obtain a doctor’s prescription to obtain them.
Proponents of making birth control an over-the-counter medication say that women face higher costs from doctor’s visits and insurance copayments than they would if the pill were simply available without a prescription. On the other hand, insurance plans with drug coverage may cover birth control prescriptions, whereas over-the-counter drugs are usually paid for out of pocket.
Cruz is adopting a position already held by some Republicans who want to make birth control pills easier to obtain in order to reduce the number of abortions. In April, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced a bill titled the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, which would fast-track the process of converting the pill into an over-the-counter medication.
Planned Parenthood has opposed such legislation, saying on its website that it would “force women to go back to the days when they paid out of pocket for birth control — which can cost upwards of $600 a year.”
Republicans have also sought to amend the Affordable Care Act so that patients could use flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to pay for birth control. Some Democrats argue that such moves are designed to further undermine the ACA and would ultimately drive up costs for birth control.
A 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 74 percent of women favored making oral contraceptive pills available over the counter. In the same poll, however, 75 percent of women surveyed said that their insurance fully covered the costs of prescription birth control, up from just 45 percent in 2013.
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