Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal makes the case in today’s Wall Street Journal that the pill should be available for sale over the counter to anyone over the age of 18. That’s a position that has already been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the nation’s largest group of obstetricians and gynecologists) but one that doesn’t exactly align with the views of the social conservatives within his party.
“As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control,” Jindal writes. “It’s a disingenuous political argument they make.”
The potential 2016 candidate is advancing something of a small-government case for better access to birth control, arguing that keeping oral contraceptives as a prescription medicine only drives up health care costs, and that the government shouldn’t be involved in such “personal matters” as to whether a woman decides she wants access to contraception.
Making the pill available over the counter would also come with an added benefit for conservatives, however: Prescription-free birth control pills wouldn’t be covered under the Obamacare provision that requires workplace health insurance plans to provide copay-free contraceptives. In the words of Jindal, that means employers with a religious objection wouldn’t be “forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others.” Under his plan, it would be up to the insurance companies and those purchasing the insurance to decide whether birth control would be covered. (That’s, obviously, the part of all this that’s unlikely to have liberals applauding.)
This past year demonstrated just how much life there is left in the birth control debate, so Jindal’s stance is one that likely won’t be quickly adopted by his entire party. Even if both parties did manage to agree on the issue—and, again, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon—there’d remain plenty of bureaucratic hurdles standing in the way of OTC birth control. For starters, the company selling the pill would first have to get the FDA to grant permission for it to be sold without a doctor’s visit. That process could take years, and no company has so far asked.