Last night, our colleague Guy Benson talked about the rather startling move by Planned Parenthood to suddenly oppose over the counter sales of birth control pills. Actually, as you will see below, Republicans have been talking about more cost effective access to a variety of drugs with an eye toward personal responsibility – including non-abortifacient birth control drugs- for a long time. And as we can also show, liberals were on board with the same idea until it became politically inexpedient… as recently as last year. But returning to the current story, PP isn’t the only one singing this politically motivated (and completely mendacious) tune. Lisa Wirthman has been making the rounds, with the same song and dance, acting as if this is some shocking new idea in the GOP.
If Republicans’ newfound enthusiasm for birth control seems suspicious, it’s with good reason. Following the lead of Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, a handful of Republicans in midterm races across the country are now embracing over-the-counter sales of birth control pills without a prescription.
Don’t be fooled. It’s a disingenuous move that could actually make the pill more expensive for women, and ignores the growing popularity and effectiveness of long-acting contraceptives that are reducing unintended pregnancies here in Colorado.
To paraphrase Ms. Wirthman, if this spin sounds like complete horse hockey, it’s with good reason. As only one of many examples, I’ve had multiple discussions with Hot Air friend Liz Mair on the subject over the years. A case in point was this article she published in 2007 after Rudy Giuliani hired Mark McClellan. (Emphasis mine.)
McClellan jumping on board will probably result in a little bit of backlash in the liberal blogosphere (more of the “Rudy’s just as big a right-winger as Sam Brownback” type chat)– it will presumably be predicated on the notion that if you bring on board a guy who was involved in saying “no” to selling Plan B over the counter, then you must be a scary moralist anti-contraception Nazi. Of course, there were, and still are, real health-based concerns associated with selling Plan B without medical advice on it being dispensed first (likely with a prescription), so McClellan’s actions aren’t something that particularly rile me up– or rather, they don’t rile me up any more than the failure of the FDA to approve selling regular old birth control pills over the counter, since there would also be health risks in doing that, but ultimately, I think that in consultation with a pharmacist, people can probably make their own decisions about contraceptives that have been in common use for years and years now, and with much less cost and hassle than we currently have.
Keep in mind that this was in 2007, long before Obamacare was a buzzword. But Liz was consistent and was still talking about it last summer when the story was picked up by no less a liberal megaphone than Daily KOS. They took great glee in noting that some Republicans weren’t trying to keep the womenfolk barefoot and in a family way in the kitchen, and pointed to Liz as an example.
Republican strategist Liz Mair says that Republicans might do better to tone down their abortion rhetoric and pair it with something that would actually, say, decrease abortions:
“I’d urge them to think strongly about whether there is companion legislation they might introduce to ensure greater access to actual contraception, such legislation optimally being free-market friendly, such as proposing lifting or easing regulations restricting the sale of the Pill without a prescription, or streamlining or simplifying the FDA approval process which could potentially help bring new and better contraceptives to market, potentially at much lower cost.”
Yeah, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of this actually happening. The Republican war on contraception, if you haven’t noticed, is fully tied to the war on abortion.
Please note that this article was from July of last year… well into the era of Obamacare. Where was the concern over costs then? I suppose that was a useful, if dishonest approach to ideological warfare at the time. It was fine and dandy to use Liz Mair as an example of how even Republican women could see what a good idea it was to loosen up access. But now that it affects the Hobby Lobby decision, it’s suddenly a horrible idea to expand access and it’s all a Republican plot. Yeah… right.
The fact is, this isn’t an abortion question. It’s an economic question. There are a variety of drugs which could be handled differently under this theory. While Liz was talking about the pill, I talked to her about the need to allow simple antibiotic drugs to be sold from behind the counter with the advice and consent of a pharmacist. If you cut your finger out in the yard and don’t get it cleaned well enough, and a day or two later the cut begins turning red and inflamed, you don’t always need a ten year medical degree to figure out what’s going on. With the approval of a pharmacist, you could get some advice on cleaning the wound better and receive a ten day treatment of basic antibiotics to kill off the infection. This would be a tremendous benefit to those who have either no health insurance or a cut-rate policy with huge co-pay fees. But under the current system, you generally need to pay for a full office visit and consultation with the doctor just to have them tell you that you should have disinfected the cut on your hand better before writing you a scrip for some amoxicillin.
The dishonesty coming from Democrats on this should be roundly exposed. And those using it for political advantage, such as in the Colorado Senate race, need to be called out. This is about helping people in difficult financial times, not finding ways to make women spend more for something they can already get for nine bucks a month once you pay for the office visit and permission slip from your doctor.
UPDATE: (Jazz) An interesting perspective on the antibiotics question in the comments from a doctor. I’ve seen other medical professionals differ with her, but it’s worth adding here for the discussion.
As a physician (and woman) I do believe birth control pills should be permitted over the counter, perhaps after the first visit to make sure the patient is a candidate and gets proper instructions in how to use it. After that, OTC. After that first time, except in the rarest of cases, nothing is discussed in those subsequent years that is going to change whether the patient can have the pill. This is just a means to hold the method hostage to get a woman to come in for primary gyn care. Not appropriate.
As for “cutting your finger” and seeing a pharmacist… Sorry, Jazz, but this is a more complicated situation than you think and DOES require all of that unfortunately necessary medical training that no one seems to think is anything special anymore. Just one example: a cat bite, for example, requires IV antibiotics and admission to the hospital. Many “cuts in the yard” require more aggressive treatment based on the type of injury, where it happened, etc. Who will the patient see in follow-up to find out if the treatment worked? Will he line up at CVS to see the pharmacist?
The choice of whether or not to use antibiotics, and what type is actually an area of medicine where the MOST medical judgement is required, not the least. I do think some antibiotics should be available over the counter for those who, again, have used them before for a certain situation and know how to use them (UTI is a good example). But I don’t think pharmacists are going to be excited about becoming new urgent care doctors, with all of the additional study and liability, and with no increase in pay.