CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte's campaign is highlighting a birth control bill she sponsored by handing out free condoms on a college campus.
The campaign recently distributed signs to students promoting her campaign that say "FREE CONDOMS" in bold letters. The signs, which are meant to be set up next to tables where potential voters can pick up information about the candidate, explain that the condoms are part of Ayotte's efforts to make birth control available over-the-counter. They also urge takers to "Use Condom Sense!"
"Obviously it's something that gets attention, and that's part of the goal," campaign spokeswoman Liz Johnson said Monday. "There's so much misinformation flying around out there, and one of the things we want to make sure gets through is that Kelly is a leader on women's health and she does support making birth control more accessible."
Ayotte, who is in her first term in Washington, is running against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country. The signs have been in place at the University of New Hampshire since last week, and the campaign is deciding whether to target other campuses.
Last year, Ayotte sponsored a bill that would provide incentives for birth control manufacturers to file with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move their products over-the-counter. Critics, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, argued that the bill would actually reduce access to contraception and cost women more money. They said women would end up paying twice — first paying for insurance coverage that includes birth control coverage and then paying out-of-pocket.
Ayotte also has been criticized for voting against funding for Planned Parenthood, and last spring, she was the target of Planned Parenthood's first television ad of the 2016 Senate cycle.
"The Ayotte campaign's admission that they see birth control as a 'campaign tactic' is the epitome of why Kelly Ayotte is wrong for New Hampshire," said Hassan spokeswoman Meira Bernstein. "Ayotte's record is clear: She has voted six times to defund Planned Parenthood, and her sham legislation has been revealed by the American Congress of OB-GYNs to be nothing more than a smoke screen that would make birth control more expensive."
Ayotte says the bill, which remains in committee, would neither increase costs nor affect current insurance coverage for birth control.
This story has been corrected to show that the signs were in place at one campus, not multiple campuses.