WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Mark Udall went after his opponent's proposal for over-the-counter birth control Friday, bringing big names to a suburban Denver battleground to argue that Rep. Cory Gardner's plan doesn't make him the "new kind of Republican" he has been claiming to be in ads.
Udall brought Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the national president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards, to a rally to argue that Udall is the better choice to protect reproductive health rights.
The three blasted a plan by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner to make the birth-control pill available without a doctor's prescription. They called it a cynical attempt to distract women voters from his record opposing abortion rights and access to reproductive health.
Friday's rally came less than a week after Gardner started airing an ad casting himself as a "new kind of Republican" who supports over-the-counter birth control. In the ad, Gardner tells a mostly female audience that Udall "wants to keep government bureaucrats between you and your health care plan."
Gardner is one of four Republicans running in tight Senate races to suggest over-the-counter birth control. Senate hopefuls Ed Gillespie in Virginia, Mike McFadden in Minnesota and Thom Tillis in North Carolina have made similar proposals. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana made the suggestion in 2012.
Gardner's birth-control talk seeks to counter a major line of attack he's getting from Udall. Gardner supported a federal proposal that could have banned some kinds of fertility treatments and contraception, and he has repeatedly voted for attempts to repeal the new health care law, which requires contraception coverage.
Udall said he wanted to fire back quickly at Gardner's "new kind of Republican" pitch to women.
"It's an attempt to distract voters," Udall said. "It's a way in which to say to voters, 'Ignore my record of my entire public-service career, which is to limit women's health care choices.' "
Richards called the GOP's over-the-counter birth control proposal a "cynical move" by candidates seeking women votes. She said women want more than just easy-to-get birth control pills and that Gardner wants to distract women from his larger health-care record.
"He has consistently voted, his entire time in office, against every effort to make women's health care more accessible," Richards said of Gardner.
A Gardner spokesman insisted the birth-control proposal is genuine and reflects Gardner's consumer-centric approach to health care.
"Making oral contraception available to adults at every pharmacy, without the trouble of a doctor's visit, would drop the retail price and save money, time and hassle," Gardner spokesman Matt Connelly said in a statement.
The Udall rally drew about 200 to a suburban strip mall in Jefferson County, in Denver's western suburbs. Attendees were urged to stay for phone-banking in the battleground county considered key to statewide success in Colorado.
Udall and Gardner are scheduled to meet Saturday for their first debate.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt