Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal argues on the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal today that birth control should be more widely available to those who want it, but probably not for the same reasons most women's health advocates do. Jindal's op-ed co-signs an endorsement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for the idea that oral contraceptives should be available without a doctor's prescription. That would make it easier for women to buy it on their own, while also letting employers who object to contraceptive coverage off the hook.
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However, the "unapologetic pro-life Republican"'s chief argument is that conservatives have been routinely hammered on the issue by Democrats who use it to paint them as anti-women zealots. (To be fair to liberals, you only have to look at the right's reaction to Sandra Fluke this summer to see that it wasn't that hard.) By removing the prescription requirement, and by extension, government oversight of contraceptive drugs, you take away a political fight that Republicans are increasingly losing.
But there's another result implicit in Jindal's argument: If birth control becomes an over-the-counter drug, health insurance companies won't have to pay for it anymore. They can choose to do so if they wish, but many women would suddenly be on the line for another medical expense, under the argument that they now have more "purchasing power"—an usual free-market appeal to help women's rights.
That puts health advocates on the left in a tough spot. Non-prescription birth control does improve access, but only if you have the money to pay for it. (To Jindal's credit, he also pushes to restore the rule that allows Health Savings Account to be used for over-the-counter medicine. And theoretically, open competition should drive down prices.) That potentially puts a greater burden on the women who can least afford higher medical costs, but if the trade off is keeping politicians and insurance executives out of the equation, it's probably one worth making. They may have very different reasons, but sometimes liberals and conservatives can find they have the same goals.