What the 2020 Candidate are Saying About Birth Control Access

Of the major election issues this primary cycle, reproductive rights aren’t talked about as often as they should be. This is mostly due to the divisiveness of abortion rights, which all of the Democratic candidates support to at least some degree.

However, an arguably more important aspect of reproductive rights is easy access to affordable birth control--including pills, IUDs, contraceptive rings, implants and others--which are essential for women to retain control over their health and lives.

Women in rural areas with little access to women’s health clinics, women in states that restrict access to various types of birth control and women with low or no health insurance coverage are likely to have reduced access to free or affordable birth control.

Birth control access is an absolutely essential issue for both men and women and deserves to be discussed at length among the Democratic candidates for president. For clarity, I will discuss only the candidates who participated in the September debate.

What do they have to say about birth control access?

Vice President Joe Biden: 

As vice president, Biden attempted to diminish or entirely get rid of the contraceptive mandate attached to the Affordable Care Act: President Obama’s marquee health care bill. This mandate, which made it illegal to deny employees birth control coverage on company insurance plans, helped millions of women attain contraceptive access.

Biden has said he personally opposes abortion but supports the legal right and often sided with Republicans on voting against abortion and contraceptive access in the Senate.

Sec. Julian Castro: 

Although he has made fewer public statements on the issue of birth control access, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Castro calls himself a proponent of “reproductive justice.” He wants to expand publicly run programs for reproductive healthcare and contraceptive access and appoint judges who understand that “Roe v. Wade is settled law.” 

Sen. Kamala Harris: 

In June, Harris co-sponsored the Affordability is Access Act in the Senate that would bring over-the-counter birth control to women across the country--namely “women of color, women with disabilities, low-income women, and women in rural areas,” according to Harris’ Senate website.

She generally is a strong supporter of greater access to reproductive healthcare and would instate a Medicare-based system while also keeping access to private insurance, likely making birth control easier and cheaper to access.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

Warren is also a co-sponsor of the Affordability is Access Act in the Senate. She is a vocal supporter of reproductive rights and has spoken extensively about the ways in which family planning is essential for women and men.

She wrote in this article about the ways in which birth control access equate to economic freedom. Her detailed healthcare policy has yet to be released, but she seemingly supports Medicare for All, under which medications like birth control would be affordable or free.

She has also heavily criticized the Trump administration’s rollback of employer-mandated birth control coverage, which allows religious exemptions for employers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: 

Sanders, another co-sponsor of the Affordability is Access Act, is a major proponent of Medicare for All. This healthcare plan would enroll Americans automatically onto government-sponsored healthcare at birth.

Under this plan, birth control would cost little to nothing and be based on income, which mirrors the plans of other countries like Canada and Sweden. He has also spoken about the importance of birth control access in the fight against climate change by lowering birth rates, a generally undiscussed topic.

He also plans to reinstate U.S. funding for family planning in underdeveloped countries -- a measure that was cut by the Trump administration- and offers reproductive health services to millions of women around the world.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

Buttigieg has suggested that greater access to affordable birth control will help limit numbers of unwanted pregnancies and therefore reduce abortion rates.

He plans to appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who support reproductive rights and contraceptive access. His full health care plan has yet to be released, but based on previous statements, he supports lower insurance costs and measures like a public option in which Americans can choose government-sponsored Medicare or their own private insurance.

In general, those who choose a public option would have decreased medication costs, including birth control.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

Klobuchar is another co-sponsor of the Affordability is Access Act. She is a vocal proponent of Title X funding, which pays for family planning and contraceptive care for low costs in rural areas and was recently defunded by the Trump administration.

She supports a healthcare measure known as Medicare Advantage, which pays for many services and medications but does not fully cover healthcare costs for enrollees. Although it is likely that lower-income women would have access to more affordable birth control, her plan is not as far-reaching as some of her colleagues, like Senator Sanders’.

Sen. Cory Booker:

Like his Senate colleagues, Booker also co-sponsored the Affordability is Access Act in June. He also co-sponsored another act, the Access to Birth Control Act.

Booker believes that access to contraception is a basic constitutional right of women, and that denial of this right represents denial of healthcare. He wants to improve the speed and ease with which women in rural areas can access birth control, as they often have limited access to pharmacies and doctors.

He has spoken out against pharmacists refusing to fill certain prescriptions because of personal religious beliefs, which would be made illegal in his proposed bill. 

Rep. Beto O’Rourke:

O’Rourke is a strong supporter of access to reproductive health care and is against cuts to programs like Planned Parenthood. He has spoken out about the denial of reproductive rights to a teenage undocumented migrant, a judicial measure which forced her to keep a pregnancy as a minor.

O’Rourke backs a public option healthcare plan in which people could opt into a Medicare-type system. This would likely bring down birth control costs for enrollees and make access to care easier. 

Andrew Yang: 

Yang believes that birth control should be provided to every American and wants to decrease abortion rates by ensuring that rural and low-income women have access to birth control and childcare measures. He is against male legislators making decisions about women’s reproductive health and supports funding for Planned Parenthood.

 

Birth control access has never been a more important issue for Americans. It’s not frequently brought up at debates, and many candidates have only a few mentions of the issue at all on their websites and public records.

As voters, we need to make it clear that the issue of reproductive rights and the right to accessible, affordable birth control is essential to our freedom, and we must put our political time, energy and money into candidates who will aggressively support that right.