US Senate Democrats target Project 2025 on reproductive rights

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats held a news conference Tuesday to defend reproductive rights and freedoms, criticizing a plan from a conservative think tank that, if adopted, would make access to abortion and contraception more tough in the Trump administration.

Lawmakers noted potential restrictions former President Donald Trump could impose on reproductive health care if elected in November, outlined in Article Project 2025a nearly 1,000-page conservative policy proposal.

The plan would restructure the federal government to align with Trump’s political beliefs. The Trump campaign says other groups do not speak on its behalf, but the project is led by former employees, including the chief of staff of the Office of Personnel Management in the Trump administration.

The press event was hosted by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, who was chairwoman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She was joined by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Murray said Project 2025, developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, would pose a threat to access to reproductive care across the country.

“Donald Trump and his allies are planning a detailed action plan, and have already handed it out, to take away women’s right to choose in every state in America,” she said.

Comstock Act

Murray allayed concerns about Comstock Acta key element of Republicans’ legal argument for limiting access to abortion in the United States.

In 1873, Congress passed a law prohibiting obscene material, including abortion material, from being sent by mail. In some interpretations of the law, statute may be used for this purpose to prohibit sending chemical abortion pills such as mifepristone. The Supreme Court voted unanimously last week rejected an attempt to limit access to mifepristone to anti-abortion groups.

Abortion pills accounted for 63 percent abortions in the U.S. in 2023, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive rights organization.

Under the Roe v. Wade ruling, which upheld the right to abortion, chemical abortion pills were protected and it was legal to mail them. In December 2022, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the Department of Justice specified despite the Comstock Act, it is still legal to send medications like mifepristone by mail.

Still, Republicans could potentially exploit the Comstock Act to restrict access to abortion during Trump’s second presidency, as the Project 2025 document points out. Schumer highlighted a quote from Tuesday’s news conference by Jonathan F. Mitchell, the architect of the 2025 Project and a staunch anti-abortion advocate.

“We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the docket,” Mitchell said: quoted in the New York Times.

In May, Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota announced that she planned to do so to introduce for a complete repeal of the Comstock Act.

Murray told reporters at Tuesday’s event that the Justice Department has determined that Republicans cannot exploit the Comstock Act to restrict access to abortion.

“Let me make this very clear,” Murray said. “Our Department of Justice has made it very clear that Comstock does not apply.”

In vitro legislation

Schumer sharply criticized Republicans blocking Duckworth’s IVF access bill last week. 60 votes were needed to pass the bill, but only received 48. Only two Republican senators voted for it: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

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“Over the past two weeks, Republican senators have shown that despite all their attempts to speak moderately on reproductive care, when it comes time to vote, they choose MAGA extremism,” Schumer said.

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Schumer announced that he had started the process of submitting a fresh bill, the so-called Women’s Reproductive Freedom Act, on the legislative calendar. The proposed legislation, co-authored by Murray and all Senate Democrats, would express Congress’s belief that lawmakers should “enshrine(s) the protections of Roe into law,” Schumer said.

Trump’s nominations

At the news conference, lawmakers also focused on the power of the courts.

Klobuchar, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that Trump’s federal court nominations had a profound impact not only in overturning Roe but also in restricting reproductive care across the country, including abortion.

She stressed that judges will play a key role in protecting the right to standing to bring cases and prohibiting extreme actions by a possible Trump administration. Senate Democrats are fighting to maintain control of the chamber in the November elections.

“Every judge we confirm makes a difference,” she said. “We know that the Americans are with us. They support us in ensuring that judges actually follow the law.”

How abortion became a central issue in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race

During Trump’s first term, he appointed three judges to the Supreme Court: Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. All three were confirmed to the court by the Senate and will remain critical in writing opinions well beyond Trump’s time in office.

Planned Parenthood

During Tuesday’s event, senators introduced a number of Project 2025 plans that Democrats oppose. For example, the plan states that the Department of Health and Human Services should make clear that states may defund Planned Parenthood under their Medicaid plans and should propose rules to disqualify Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.

“Planned Parenthood is often the only option for low-income women seeking contraception,” Hirono said.

Hirono also noted that Project 2025 has proposed changing the name of the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Life.

“This is not about protecting life,” Hirono said. “It’s about power and control and Republicans’ obsession with controlling women’s bodies.”

Duckworth expressed frustration that Republicans tell American voters they care about women’s rights but don’t vote to protect them.

“When the rubber hits the road and we don’t ask for empty words on Twitter before they vote, they won’t lift a finger to protect women in this country,” she said.

Murray vowed to protect women’s rights regardless of the outcome of the November election.

“We are fighting,” Murray said. “We do everything we can to protect women’s rights and we will be here to block anything the Trump administration tries to do.”

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