COVER STORY Gardner - Littleton Roundtable 1.jpg

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner talks with Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman at a roundtable discussion at the Town Hall Arts Center on June 17.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is urging the Food and Drug Administration to make contraceptives more readily available.

His office released a letter Monday that he and fellow Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa sent to Norman Sharpless, Trump's acting FDA commissioner. 

The senators introduced legislation in March that they say will loosen what Gardner's office on Monday characterized as a "burdensome, inconsistent" regulatory process that "keeps manufacturers from developing contraceptives that could be sold over the counter without a prescription."

"We recognize the public health benefits of providing greater access and choice for American families to contraceptives," their letter continues. "For many women across the country, the added strain from a prescription requirement means hours lost from work or their personal lives and increased stress. While some states have undertaken steps to increase access at the pharmacy counter, those efforts fall short of meaningful, widespread adoption of OTC contraceptive availability.

"We encourage the FDA to work with manufacturers to increase convenient access to oral contraceptives that have long been determined to be safe and effective. We will continue to advocate in the Senate for passage of our legislation, S. 930, the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, which incentivizes manufacturers to go through the OTC approval process."

The legislation could help Gardner's endangered re-election bid next year, if Colorado continues to trend blue.

Though there was no mention of Gardner's bill, in June, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the firebrand Democrat from New York, tweeted, "Psst! Birth control should be over-the-counter, pass it on."

Reproductive rights groups continue to target the Republican senator from the Eastern Plains, and the move on contraception by abortion-opposing Gardner isn't likely to win them over.

It could, however, help shore up GOP support among suburban women and help Gardner with moderate unaffiliated voters in Colorado.

Gardner, however, has had trouble pulling in poll numbers to match those of President Trump, who also isn't polling well in the state.

RELATED: Gardner warns Trump's Mexico tariffs could undermine economic boom

His occasional breaks with the president have cost him support with Trump's base, recent polling suggests. Gardner gave early endorsement to Trump's re-election this year, as talk of a possible primary was brewing.

President Trump has attempted to institute rules to make it easier for employers to deny contraceptive coverage in women's health insurance plans, which was required by President Obama's Affordable Care Act under preventive health. 

In January a federal judge in Pennsylvania, however, blocked the Trump administration's proposed new rules on contraceptive coverage.

During the 2016 election, Trump was one of the Republican presidential candidates saying over-the-counter contraceptives should be more available.

"It should not be a prescription," Trump said before the election.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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