The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced its support last month for selling oral contraceptives over the counter without a prescription in the United States. I agree with this opinion, which if embraced by the federal government would take contraception out of the political arena.
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. It’s a disingenuous political argument they make.
As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others. And parents who believe, as I do, that their teenage children shouldn’t be involved with sex at all do not deserve ridicule.
Let’s ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.
So at present we have an odd situation. Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription. Contraception is a personal matter—the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so.
Over-the-counter contraception would be easier to obtain if not for some unfortunate aspects of President Obama’s health-care law. One of the most egregious elements of that law is the hampering of Health Savings Accounts, which have become increasingly popular in recent years because they give Americans choices in how to spend their money on health care. By removing the ability of citizens to use their HSAs to purchase over-the-counter medicine tax-free if they don’t have a doctor’s prescription, President Obama hurt many middle-class families who counted on using their HSA dollars every flu season to take care of their children. Health Savings Accounts should cover over-the-counter purchases, and those should include contraception.
It’s time to put purchasing power back in the hands of consumers—not employers, not pharmaceutical companies, and not bureaucrats in Washington. The great thing about America is that power doesn’t come from government, but from people. It’s time to reclaim that power. It’s time to stop government from dividing people or insulting deeply held religious beliefs, and return the country to the path that has always made it great—one where Americans respect and value their fellow citizens, no matter their creed.
Democrats have wrongly accused Republicans of being against birth control and against allowing people to use it. That’s hogwash. But Republicans do want to protect those who have religious beliefs that are opposed to contraception. The latest opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a common-sense call for reform that could yield a result everyone can embrace: the end of birth-control politics.
Mr. Jindal is the governor of Louisiana. This piece originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.