The political battle earlier this year over health insurance coverage for contraception wouldn't be repeated if women could buy birth control without a prescription, Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote in an op-ed Friday.
Jindal was advocating a recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who took the stance in November that birth control pills should be sold over-the-counter in drugstores. Currently contraception pills require a prescription from a doctor, many of whom are represented by the ACOG.
Jindal made the case Friday in the Wall Street Journal that such a shift in policy would eliminate the political back-and-forth over contraception policy, which divided many Americans in early last year.
"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," Jindal wrote.
The issue originally arose in February, when the White House said it would require hospitals and schools with religious ties to offer full contraception coverage. Many Catholic leaders and other religious groups strongly oppose any requirement for contraception coverage on theological grounds. President Barack Obama later announced a compromise that exempted some religious institutions from offering contraception coverage to their employees.
The episode sparked partisan and ideological rhetoric, including from GOP presidential hopefuls in the middle of a heated primary season. Eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney encouraged his supporters to sign a petition protesting "the Obama administration's attacks on religious liberty," saying the new rules amounted to an assault on personal rights.
Later, during the general election, Democrats accused Romney of wanting to restrict access to birth control - claims his campaign vehemently said were untrue. The issue was also used to hammer Republicans in down-ballot races.
"Democrats have wrongly accused Republicans of being against birth control and against allowing people to use it. That's hogwash," Jindal wrote in the Wall Street Journal Friday.
He said use of 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," he wrote.
Jindal, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is considered a potential candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and has made a push in recent weeks to assert himself as a leader within the party. He delivered an education policy speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and while he was a Romney surrogate during the campaign, he was one of the first Republicans to distance himself from Romney after the defeated nominee claimed Obama won the election by offering "gifts" to African-Americans, Hispanics and young Americans.