US Senate GOP prevents introduction of contraceptive access bill

WASHINGTON – An effort to expand Americans’ access to contraception failed Wednesday when U.S. Senate Republicans blocked the bill from advancing to final passage.

The 51-39 procedural vote required at least 60 senators to move forward, but it failed when GOP lawmakers said the measure was too broad and unnecessary. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, both Republicans, broke with their party and voted in favor of the legislation.

Democrats argued during the debate on 12-page bill that it would provide a safety net in case a future Supreme Court overturns two cases that would ensure that married and single Americans have the right to make decisions about when and how to apply contraception.

“Since the fall of Roe, women’s reproductive rights, including access to contraception and in vitro fertilization, have been under attack. The need for this legislation is not hypothetical,” Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey said in a statement after the vote. “Women across the country deserve to know that their right to birth control cannot be taken away at the whim of state legislators. Once again, Republican politicians are showing that they are too extreme and cannot be trusted when it comes to women’s reproductive health.”

Casey and the US senator. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania), both voted in favor of adopting the bill.

GOP senators maintained that the vote was purely political and that if Democrats were earnest about securing access to contraception for future generations, they would work with Republicans on a bipartisan bill.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen said the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate a constitutional right to abortion in the Dobbs decision two years ago showed women how quickly things can change.

“It showed that a fundamental right, that is, women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, can be taken away in the blink of an eye,” Rosen said.

Women, she said, cannot rely solely on the Supreme Court to uphold cases that have guaranteed Americans access to contraception for more than 50 years.

“Contraception has been used safely by millions of women for decades,” Rosen said. “Women have been allowed to take control of their own bodies – to decide when they want to start a family, how many children they have and who they want to start a family with.”

“For the same reasons, contraceptive rights have been a target of anti-choice extremists for years,” Rosen added.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican seeking to become the chamber’s next GOP leader, said the bill is intended to “provide a talking point for Democratic candidates.”

“These votes have nothing to do with legislating and everything to do with hopefully improving Democrats’ electoral chances in the fall elections,” Thune said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Thune said many Republicans found the legislation a no-go because it did not include conscience protections that exist under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The federal law, enacted in 1993 after Schumer’s sponsorship, it established “heightened standards for reviewing government actions that significantly inhibit the exercise of religion.”

Sale of contraceptives

The Democrats’ bill would protect “an individual’s ability to access contraceptives” and “a health care provider’s ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and contraceptive-related information.”

The legislation would prohibit state and federal governments from prohibiting the sale of any contraceptive or blocking “any person from assisting another person to voluntarily obtain or use any contraceptive or contraceptive method.”

The bill defines contraception as “action taken to prevent pregnancy, including the use of contraceptives or fertility awareness methods and sterilization procedures.”

A year after the FDA approved an over-the-counter birth control pill, advocates are pushing for greater access

Democrats in the House of Representatives presented an identical bill in that chamber on Tuesday, although it is unlikely to come to a vote as long as Republicans maintain control.

Opinion of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas raised concerns about access to contraception two years ago, writing: agreed opinion in the Dobbs case.

Thomas wrote that the justices should “reconsider all substantive due process precedents adopted by the Court, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

None of the other nine justices joined Thomas in writing this opinion, likely signaling that they disagreed with some or all of it.

In Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, for the first time a court held that married couples’ constitutional right to privacy extended to decisions about contraception. That ruling struck down a Connecticut law prohibiting access to contraceptives.

In 1972, the Supreme Court in Eisenstadt v. Baird extended the right to make private decisions regarding contraception to unmarried people.

After Thomas’s consensus opinion was published, Democrats and reproductive rights groups immediately began pushing for federal legislation that would strengthen current access to contraception. Congress has not yet passed any.

Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, said during a news conference with Senate Democrats on Wednesday before the vote that women should talk to their mothers and grandmothers about when they were first able to get birth control.

“When we talk about generations of women in this country who did not have access to contraceptives, we are simply talking about my mother’s generation – 1965,” Timmaraju said. “It wasn’t that long ago and this really should be a wake-up call.”

Summary of the White House and Biden campaigns

The Biden administration signaled its support for Senate Democrats’ bill hours before the vote, writing in: Statement of Administrative Policy the measure “would protect the fundamental right to access contraception and help ensure women can make decisions about their health, life and family.”

“Women must have the freedom to make deeply personal decisions about their health care, including the right to decide whether and when to start or expand a family,” the policy states. “It is time to secure the right to contraception once and for all.”

On Wednesday morning, representatives of the Biden-Harris campaign held a press call on reproductive rights to highlight the differences between the presidential candidates on reproductive rights, including access to abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization.

Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said during the call that Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, couldn’t be further from Biden when it comes to access.

Rodriguez said Trump comments during an interview with TIME magazine in April and his reports in May, he showed to a local Pennsylvania television station that he did not support women’s reproductive rights.

Decisions about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilization belong to women and their doctors, “not politicians and the government,” Rodriguez said.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a member of the Biden-Harris campaign advisory board, said in the appeal that this year’s election would be a “defining moment” for the country.

Republicans’ efforts to limit access to reproductive health care, he said, mean they are trying to “control women.”

Ernst’s alternative proposal

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said during debate on the bill that the Democrats’ legislation went too far and urged the Senate to take it up the bill she presented earlier this week.

Since then, the measure has gained nine co-sponsors, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Steve Daines of Montana, Todd Young of Indiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, James E. . Risch from Idaho and John Cornyn from Texas.

Iowa Republican Ashley Hinson plans to introduce a companion bill in the House, according to an announcement from Ernst’s office.

“With my bill, we are ensuring that women 18 and older will be able to walk into any pharmacy, whether in Red Oak, Iowa, or Washington, D.C., and purchase a safe and effective method of contraception,” Ernst said. “This Republican bill establishes a priority review of over-the-counter birth control options to encourage the FDA to act quickly.”

Ernst said she was “encouraged” that one over-the-counter oral contraceptive was approved and available, but that it should be “just a starting point.”

The four-page bill would encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve additional over-the-counter oral contraceptives and “direct the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on federal funding for contraceptive methods.”

The legislation would require the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to give priority consideration to a supplemental application for oral contraceptives “intended for routine use.” However, this does not include “any emergency contraceptive” or “any drug also approved for use to induce abortion.”

Access to over-the-counter oral contraceptives that have received FDA approval so they no longer require a prescription would be available to people 18 years of age and older.

Capital-Star staff contributed.

This article was updated at 5:55 p.m., June 5, 2024, to add votes from Sens. Casey and Fetterman

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts