Calling out candidates on choice works

graphic via
graphic via

Apparently last Thursday was opposite day in Colorado, as a Republican Senate candidate published an op-ed calling for increased contraception access:

Since “the pill” was first approved 44 years ago, it’s been one of the most proven and tested pharmaceuticals of our time. It is safe, reliable, effective, and presents very few risks or complications for the more than 10 million women who use it. When other drugs have that kind of track record, we approve them for purchase without a prescription; the Food and Drug Administration has already reclassified over 100 different treatments. Name-brand drugs like Advil, Pepcid, Claritin, Prilosec and many others were once sold by prescription only, but moved to over-the-counter sale (OTC) once they’d been proven safe and unlikely to be abused.

When treatments go over-the-counter, two things happen: they get dramatically cheaper and consumers save time and hassle by avoiding unnecessary doctors’ appointments just to get the pharmaceuticals they already know they need.

What caused Rep. Cory Gardner to see the light on this issue? Did he carefully weigh the facts and realize that birth control access is a fundamental right for women? 

Not surprisingly, the answer is far more cynical: Gardner has been under attack by his opponent for his positions on reproductive rights. Gardner doesn’t even try to hide it, devoting paragraphs in his piece to the campaign and what he calls “nasty, deceptive ads” attacking his anti-choice history. Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette wrote a piece in response that chronicles his abysmal record, from restricting contraception to supporting so-called “personhood” initiatives, and calls it a “political play unworthy of Colorado voters.”

What does this song and dance teach us? Attacking anti-choice candidates on reproductive rights is smart politics.

The pressure isn’t getting us a sincere change of heart in the heat of the campaign. And as Amanda Marcotte points out, Gardner views over the counter birth control as a libertarian alternative to insurance coverage for contraception, not a supplement to it.

But what more evidence do you need that Gardner feels like his record on choice is a political liability than this op-ed? His opponent Mark Udall and activists have been going after Gardner for his actions to make access harder for women, and he clearly sees that his ability to win in a swing state could be jeopardized by that record. Those who are too timid to bring these issues to the forefront or think that reproductive rights are controversial territory to avoid in elections should pay close attention to this campaign.



Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

4 thoughts on “Calling out candidates on choice works”

  1. I would love OTC birth control pills. Especially if there is still room for types of contraception that are covered by insurance. Anything that expands access is a win, in my book, and many other countries already sell birth control pills over the counter. In the U.S./Mexico border region, many American women cross the border to buy OTC birth control. Apparently it’s less of a hassle than getting an annual appointment for a prescription up here.

    The Pill was approved in 1960 — which is 54 years ago, not 44. So I question Gardner’s math. 🙂


    1. Yes, whatever Gardner’s motivations, he makes some good points about how safe the pill is and how it should be more accessible in this way. But there’s more that’s off about it than just his math I think 🙂


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