Ted Cruz to AOC: Let's team up again to make birth control available over the counter

Ted Cruz to AOC: Let's team up again to make birth control available over the counter

This is the second time in less than two weeks that he’s publicly invited Ocasio-Cortez to partner with him on an issue that she’s been pushing on Twitter.

Over/under on when this dude co-sponsors the Green New Deal: Labor Day.

Seriously, though, this is a sensible reform, one which has had support from prominent Republicans for some time:

I wonder if AOC fully grasps the politics here. She’s new to Congress and maybe hasn’t engaged with the issue except in the most straightforward way: If you’re pro-choice and believe staunchly in “reproductive freedom” then logically you should want access to contraception to be as wide and cheap as possible. Deregulate the damned thing like many other countries around the world have done, watch costs drop, and spare women the annoyance, expense, and insurance complications of having to visit a doctor just to be able to buy the pill.

That argument is sufficiently convincing that GOPers of various ideological stripes have endorsed it since Obama’s first term. Bobby Jindal, an outspoken social conservative, came out in favor in an op-ed in 2012. Cory Gardner has been pushing it for years. A few months ago he and Joni Ernst partnered on a bill that would make it easier and faster for HHS and the FDA to grant OTC status to applications by birth-control manufacturers and would allow women to use their HSA accounts to purchase the medication despite the lack of a prescription. Tiana Lowe saluted the bill in a post for the Examiner a few weeks ago:

For one thing, employers would no longer be liable for covering it through health insurance plans, removing any religious liberty complications involved in court challenges to the contraceptive mandate. It would also immediately change the drug’s elasticity to consumer demand and make its list price cheaper for all women, including uninsured ones, who currently pay an artificially high price for a drug that insured women can get for free.

While studies have not definitively proven that the real cost of birth control would fall as a result of making “The Pill” over-the-counter, Amazon’s recent foray into the nonprescription drug market demonstrates the cost-cutting capacity of empowering patients with consumer choice. Less than a year selling over-the-counter drugs, Amazon has massively undercut competitors, with a Jeffries Group report finding that Amazon’s private label drugs are cheaper than 84% of Walgreens’ and 72% of CVS’s private label drugs.

Various medical associations, including the AMA and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have endorsed making birth control available over-the-counter, notes Lowe. The public likes the idea too: A 2014 poll showed 70 percent in favor, with little difference between Republicans (65 percent) and Democrats (69 percent). My guess is that Ocasio-Cortez would be surprised to hear that, having likely embraced the caricature that the socially conservative GOP frowns on anything that would grant women more control over reproduction and might reduce the potential consequences of sex.

But the risk of pregnancy is actually a core reason why even pro-lifers like Jindal and Ted Cruz like this proposal. The more freely available contraception is, the fewer unwanted pregnancies there are, the lower the number of abortions.

So why hasn’t Congress already nudged the FDA to change this rule? Partly, I think, it’s a matter of inertia. Longstanding policies to which the public is accustomed don’t change easily, especially ones that might be viewed coolly by a high-turnout voting bloc like older voters. (See also “marijuana legalization.”) But partly too it’s a matter of … liberal obstruction. Yes, really: In 2014, when this issue was kicking around during the midterms, one of the chief opponents was none other than Planned Parenthood. Guy Benson wrote about it for this site at the time. PP’s motive, as Lowe said in a separate post on this topic, was financial.

At heart, it’s just about greed. If women (especially uninsured and low-income women) are suddenly able to obtain cheap birth control on demand from their local CVS, they won’t have to rely on Planned Parenthood, whose annual $60 million in Title X funding could hang in the balance. It wouldn’t be good for the group’s foot traffic, either.

Planned Parenthood would also lose the statistical basis for maintaining its disingenuous claim that that abortions are a vanishingly small (just 3%!) part of what the organization does.

Planned Parenthood is all for reproductive freedom that’s good for its own business. The types of freedom that aren’t so good for its bottom line are less essential, shall we say. I wonder what AOC will say when the abortion lobby pulls her aside and explains that to her. Is she going to go to war with Planned Parenthood over this issue — with Ted Cruz as her chief ally?

Ironically, then, this bill is related to the concern at the heart of the other bill she and Cruz are working on together. It’s probably only because of the power of lobbyists, specifically left-wing lobbyists in this case, that OTC status hasn’t already been granted to the pill.

Speaking of which, your exit question: What’s Cruz’s angle in these repeated invitations to Ocasio-Cortez on social media to buddy-up with him on legislation? I’m not questioning that he supports the proposals on the merits. But, Cruz being Cruz, there’s always an electoral angle to what he’s engaged in. Is it a way to “soften” his image somehow, make him seem more bipartisan (and more populist), ahead of another presidential run in 2024? Cruz may be calculating that, in a post-Trump era, you just can’t get elected president as a stalwart conservative with more of a reputation for blocking legislation than for crafting it. So here he is, ostentatiously offering to partner with the left’s newest political star on matters of mutual interest. He’s trying to build a reputation as something much more than an obstructionist before his next run.

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