Every Democrat and eight Republicans in the House vote to protect contraception

Every Democrat and eight Republicans in the House vote to protect contraception

The US House of Representatives passed a bill to protect access to contraception, following warnings from congressional Democrats that emboldened Republican state lawmakers and the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority could undermine constitutional rights to reproductive healthcare after striking down Roe v Wade.

The Right to Contraception Act affirms Americans’ right to contraceptive care – including oral birth control, intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and emergency contraception like the morning-after pill – as well as the right of physicians to provide them.

Only eight Republicans joined House Democrats in support with a vote of 228-195 on 21 July. GOP Reps Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Fred Upton of Michigan, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio voted in support.

Half of the Republicans who voted for it – Mr Upton, Mr Kinzinger, Mr Katko and Mr Gonzale – are not seeking reelection, while Ms Cheney faces a tough primary in her home state after her repeated criticism of former president Donald Trump. Others like Mr Fitzpatrick and Ms Salazar represent districts that voted for President Joe Biden.

Ms Mace, who is a rape survivor, wore a jacket with labels that said “My state is banning EXCEPTIONS. Protect Contraception.”

South Carolina is currently debating legislation to ban nearly all abortions in the state without exceptions for rape and incest. Ms Mace recently won her primary against a challenger endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

After the Supreme Court revoked a constitutional right to abortion care in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Republican state lawmakers across the US enacted severe anti-abortion laws that were previously deemed unconstitutional, while conservative legal groups and right-wing Christian lobbyists – which have spent years challenging LGBT+ rights and reproductive healthcare measures – seek to grow their influence in state legislatures.

In a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the court should “reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents” – including landmark cases involving contraception and marriage equality.

Without explicit federal protections, Democratic lawmakers fear that – like abortion – access to contraception and the recognition of same-sex marriages could depend only on protections within individual states.

“This bill could not be more important,” Democratic Rep Sara Jacobs of California told the House during debate. “For me and tens of millions of Americans, these threats from Justice Thomas and the Supreme Court to take away our contraception are not abstract.”

Ms Jacobs relayed the personal impacts of access to birth control as a teenager, as well as an IUD and Plan B.

“We should be talking about periods and birth control and the healthcare that millions of Americans need for their everyday lives,” she said. “The decision of how and when and if to grow a family are decisions that are personal and private and should never be decided by the Supreme Court or Congress.”

House Republicans criticised the bill for rushing to the floor for a vote and claimed that the legislation is a “Trojan horse for more abortions”, according to Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington who called the bill “Payouts for Planned Parenthood Act”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Republican rhetoric surrounding the bill.

“Let’s be clear, punishing and controlling women for using birth control is just another plank in the Republicans’ extreme agenda for America,” she said.

She said GOP objections reflect a “dark desire” to control and punish Americans’ intimate decision-making.

“This is about servitude,” she said.

Democratic US Rep Judy Chu, who authored legislation to codify abortion rights, said “birth control is healthcare, plain and simple.”