News Contraception

Cory Gardner Cites Nonexistent Entity as a Supporter of His Contraception Proposal

Jason Salzman

Rep. Gardner, who's challenging Sen. Mark Udall for U.S. Senate, produced an advertisement citing the “American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists” as a backer of his proposal to sell contraception over-the-counter. But this group does not exist, and an organization with a similar name doesn’t support Gardner’s proposal.

An advertisement arriving in Colorado mailboxes this week promotes Republican senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s proposal to make “birth control available over-the-counter to adults without a prescription.”

“Cory would ensure women would be able to get the medicine that they need over the counter and around-the-clock, saving you time and improving your life,” the mailer states.

The ad continues:

Supported by the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Cory’s proposal would make oral contraception: Less expensive — about the price of Aspirin; More convenient — helping women obtain The Pill on their own schedule without an appointment; More accessible — ensures women in underserved urban and rural areas have greater ability to obtain The Pill.

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The American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, appears to be a nonexistent entity.

A Google search for the “American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists” returns references to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

After seeing the Gardner mailer, Kate Connors, ACOG Media Relations Director, told Rewire via email, “For all I know, there is an AAOG out there, somewhere, but it has certainly never come to my attention. I dare say that the mailer’s reference to it is an error.”

Connors said that it was also an “error” for Gardner to suggest that “we have supported his proposal.”

Connors pointed to a September 9 ACOG statement that over-the-counter sale of contraception is a long-term goal, not a proposal it supports currently.

“We feel strongly, however, that [over-the-counter] access to contraceptives should be part of a broader dialogue about improving women’s health care, preventing unintended pregnancies, and increasing use of contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARC),” said ACOG President John C. Jennings in a statement posted on the organization’s website. “Over-the-counter access should not be used as a political tool by candidates or by elected officials.”

The mailer was marked with the logo of “Cory Gardner for Senate” and included the URL for the candidate’s official campaign website. Gardner is facing U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in what is widely considered a toss-up race, and one that could determine control of the Senate.

A person who answered the phone at Gardner’s campaign office insisted a reporter send an email seeking clarification about the mailer. Gardner’s office did not reply via email.

“Although it poses few risks and would make the pill cheaper,” states Gardner’s mailer, “Udall continues to keep bureaucrats between you and your health-care plan. … Udall will not fight for Colorado’s women.”

“But we need cost-free, insured coverage for birth control, and that needs to include IUDs,” Connor wrote. “And don’t forget that all of the Congressional candidate proposals in the world won’t make birth control available over the counter, because it hasn’t been approved by the FDA.”

Politifact.com, in a September 8 analysis, judged Gardner’s claim about the pill being cheaper if sold over-the-counter as “mostly false,” in light of various uncertainties as well as the fact that, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot charge policy holders a co-pay for preventive health care, including contraception.

Pro-choice organizations are wary of Gardner’s plan.

“We can’t trust what Congressman Gardner says about putting birth control over the counter, because he doesn’t understand the real-life implications for women,” Cathy Alderman, vice president for public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told Rewire. “Women need to be able to talk to medical professionals about what birth control they need. A carte blanche over-the-counter approach doesn’t take that into consideration.”

Alderman added that Gardner’s proposal is not allowed under Affordable Care Act, which prohibits over-the-counter medicines from being covered by insurance plans. So under current policy, birth control that’s now available without a co-pay for most women under the ACA would cost $600 or more per year.

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