- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

DENVER | It’s getting harder to tell the Democrats from the Republicans in Colorado. Case in point: Rep. Cory Gardner released an ad Tuesday calling for making birth control pills available over the counter, but Sen. Mark Udall isn’t wild about the idea.

Mr. Gardner — he’s the Republican — says in the television ad that birth control pills should be available without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration has long required women to obtain a doctor’s prescription for oral contraceptives, though not for morning-after pills with the same active ingredients.

“What’s the difference between me and Mark Udall on contraception? I believe the pill ought to be available over the counter, round the clock, without a prescription. Cheaper and easier, for you,” says Mr. Gardner in the ad that’s airing statewide.

The goal is to rebut the Udall campaign’s “war on women” strategy, which has proven enormously effective for Democrats in Colorado. What’s changed this year is that Republicans like Mr. Gardner are meeting the issue squarely by arguing that their agenda is more woman-friendly than that of the Democrats.

Mark Udall’s plan is different,” Mr. Gardner continues in the ad. “He wants to keep government bureaucrats between you and your health care plan. That means more politics, and more profits for drug companies. My plan means more rights, more freedom and more control for you — and that’s a big difference.”

Mr. Udall — he’s the Democrat — has raised concerns about the proposal, telling the Coloradoan in July that requiring a prescription for oral contraceptives is actually a better deal for consumers because the Affordable Care Act covers birth control.

“I believe it would put more barriers to women’s health and contraception,” Mr. Udall told the Fort Collins newspaper.

Even though Obamacare requires insurance companies to cover birth control without a copayment, that doesn’t mean all oral contraceptives are free. As Planned Parenthood notes in an online post, “there are a few reasons why your insurance may not cover a specific type of birth control at no cost.”

For example, insurance companies only need offer one type of birth control pills. Women who want a certain brand of oral contraceptives not offered by their insurance plan may still need to meet a copay. In addition, insurance plans that are “grandfathered” aren’t required to meet Obamacare’s standards, according to Planned Parenthood.

Mr. Udall’s campaign released a statement Tuesday calling the Gardner ad “jaw-dropping” in light of his stance on “personhood.” While the pro-life Mr. Gardner is one of 132 House co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act, he has disavowed his previous support for a state personhood amendment, saying he was concerned it would ban some forms of birth control.

Congressman Gardner will do anything to hide his backwards agenda from Colorado women,” said Udall for Colorado spokesperson Kristin Lynch in a statement. “The undeniable fact is Gardner continues to push radical, anti-woman measures that would ban common forms of birth control. One 30-second ad doesn’t make up for that.”

Shortly after Mr. Gardner’s ad went online, the Udall campaign pointed to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concerns about the Republican’s plan.

“Cost is a major factor in a woman’s consistent use of contraception, and many women simply cannot afford the out of pocket costs of contraceptives without health insurance coverage,” ACOG said in July.

But in a June 19 op-ed in the Denver Post, Mr. Gardner argued that making oral contraception available over the counter would bring down the price for a product that “presents very few risks or complications for the more than 10 million women who use it.”

There’s also the convenience factor. “Fewer unneeded doctors’ appointments mean fewer missed workdays and child care expenses, more productivity and more time with family,” said Mr. Gardner. “This is particularly true for rural families like mine where doctors are not always nearby.”

Real Clear Politics has ranked the Colorado Senate race a toss-up, with Mr. Udall running one percentage point ahead of Mr. Gardner on average, less than any poll’s error margin.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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