OK, Let's Talk About Birth Control

Let me get this straight: Control of the Senate hangs on whether women show up to vote, and candidates with long records against women's health want to make this election about birth control. Where do I send the thank-you card? Would a gift basket from Hickory Farms be too much? This is cause for celebration, because if you're a candidate who is against abortion and birth control, the last thing you want to campaign on for the next two months is abortion and birth control.

But it's too late now. No take-backs. If they want to talk about women's health, let's talk about it. Because doing things their way would mean we would lose insurance coverage for birth control, and we're not willing to go back.

We should have known this is where they were going when Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado said, "I support a woman's access to..." and forgot the words "birth control." Everyone had a good laugh about it, but few noticed the first part of that sentence. It was strange coming from someone who voted to ban funding for Planned Parenthood health centers, who provide women with access to a lot of, well, you know.

Now everyone who has made a career out of defunding family planning and Planned Parenthood is suddenly elbowing each other out of the way to profess their support -- nay, their fervor -- for birth control.

"I will always protect women's access to birth control. I always have and always will," says Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who as a state senator supported amending the constitution to say life begins at conception, a position that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says could interfere with personal decisions about contraception, fertility treatment, and miscarriage management.

In North Carolina, Senate candidate Thom Tillis claimed, "The Hobby Lobby decision was not about contraception," a claim that would come as a big shock to anyone who followed the arguments in court. Then he went on, "I actually agree with the American Medical Association that we should make contraception more widely available" -- even though he supported a similar "personhood" measure in North Carolina that Ernst did in Iowa.

All of a sudden, Senate candidates with horrible records on women's health, such as Colorado's Cory Gardner, have decided that selling birth control over-the-counter is a smart play. You want to play? Let's play, because if we're talking about birth control, I know who will win.

Gardner's plan would impose a massive new birth control tax on American women. In the first year of the birth control benefit, women saved $483 million, and 48.5 million are now eligible. We see what you're doing. You're turning a little pill into a giant bill for women and families.

Birth control over the counter without insurance coverage adds up to $600 in cost for women a year, just when we're climbing out of a recession (and also heads up: OTC is also many years away from even being possible, which you would know if you actually cared). But if that's what you want to talk about with two months left in the election, we're happy to accommodate you.

That's why we just launched television ads in both Colorado and North Carolina to make sure folks know about Gardner and Tillis' long records of working to make birth control less affordable and accessible for women.

The polling isn't close on this. Nearly 70 percent of the country opposes the government restricting access to abortion, according to a August poll. In a post-Hobby Lobby poll, 57 percent of women voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposes allowing employers to refuse to cover birth control.

It makes sense, then, for opponents of women's health to use issues like a cloaking device, but on birth control they can't hide in plain sight. It wasn't that long ago that we were paying several hundred dollars a year because insurance didn't cover contraception as preventive medicine. These politicians talk about birth control; women use it.

So Ernst, Tillis, Gardner, et al want to campaign on birth control? Twist my arm. If these politicians want to make birth control a dominant issue in the 2014 by proposing a new $483 million birth control tax on American women, we're game.