May 18, 2023

Cortez Masto, Murray, Hirono Introduce Legislation to Protect Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cortez Masto joined U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in re-introducing the Affordability is Access Act, legislation to ensure that women across the country have affordable access to FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) birth control without a prescription.

“Women’s reproductive freedoms are under attack across the country, and we know that far-right extremists won’t stop at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “It is essential that we put policies in place now that will provide timely access to over-the-counter birth control once approved by the FDA. Comprehensive coverage for contraception will help thousands of Nevada women stay healthy and in control of their own lives. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation and will keep fighting for women’s rights.”

“We are here today to make sure women can get the birth control they need—and can get it without having to pay extra, ask permission, or jump through ridiculous hoops,” said Senator Murray. “We are here to make sure that when birth control is available to everyone over the counter, it is also affordable for everyone. Because affordability IS access. And today, we are closer than ever to over-the-counter birth control. This is so important—especially in this post-Roe nightmare when far-right Republicans across the nation are rolling back reproductive rights, pushing radical and dangerous abortion bans, and making clear they are coming for birth control next.”

“At a time when Republicans across the country are fighting to ban abortion nationwide—bans that disproportionately harm people of color, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ people—it is critical that we ensure every person who needs it can access and afford contraception,” said Senator Hirono. “That FDA advisory panel vote to approve the first ever over-the-counter birth control application is a historic step forward in the fight to expand access to birth control, and I hope the FDA will act without delay to accept the panel’s recommendation. But as we know, access alone without affordability is not true access. That’s why we need to pass this legislation to help ensure everyone who needs it can access birth control, regardless of their income.”

The Affordability is Access Act would ensure that once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves routine, daily use of oral birth control without a prescription, private health insurance plans are required to  cover over-the-counter birth control without any out-of-pocket costs to the patient. This bill addresses the reality that for many women—especially those with the tightest budgets—true access requires affordability.

  • Ensure coverage of all contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription.
  • Maintain the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription. 
    • Entities that research and develop contraceptives must apply to the FDA for review and approval for sale without a prescription.
    • Upon the receipt of such an application, the FDA must determine whether the contraceptive product meets the rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality standards for over-the-counter use, as established by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
    • If the product meets these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay.
  • Require retailers to provide OTC contraception without a prescription. 
    • The Affordability is Access Act states that any retailer that stocks contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.

Read full text of the Affordability is Access Act here.

Senator Cortez Masto has been fierce advocate for women’s reproductive rights. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to ensure legal protections for women traveling across state lines to receive reproductive care. She has urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive health care and introduced legislation to make sure women across the country have access to affordable over-the-counter birth control. Just last month she took on one of the nation’s biggest pharmaceutical wholesalers to ensure Nevadans can access the abortion pill in retail pharmacies, including Walgreens.