Sen. Schumer pushes Senate vote on right to birth control bill

Senate Democrats were voting Wednesday on a bill enshrining the right to birth control amid a widening Republican-led rollback of reproductive rights.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Right to Contraception Act is a “simple bill” to protect reproductive rights as conservatives move to outlaw abortion and put in vitro fertilization and birth control in question.

“Tens of millions of women have been robbed of their reproductive freedoms. We also live in a country where tens of millions more worry about something as basic as birth control,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It’s medieval.”

“If you believe all women should have the right to contraception you should vote for this bill,” Schumer added.

It remained unclear if Democrats in the nearly evenly divided Senate have the 60 votes to overcome a potential conservative filibuster, much less pass the bill in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Win or lose, Democrats want to signal to presidential election year voters that they will continue to push for a wide range of women’s health issues in the face of a very successful conservative effort to roll back abortion rights.

Republicans argue the bill is unnecessary because contraception is not under any serious attack, although a handful of moderate GOP lawmakers may support the measure.

Reproductive rights has been a lightning rod issue since 2022 when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Since then, Republican-led states have enacted ever stricter bans on abortion, while Democrats have racked up a string of electoral victories on the back of voter anger at the rollback of rights.

Polls show about 60% support for abortion being mostly legal, making it a potent wedge issue even in red-leaning states.

President Biden’s reelection campaign sees reproductive rights, including but not limited to abortion, as a key tool to winning over undecided voters, especially women.

Former President Trump has sought to dodge questions about the issue, saying it should be left to the states.

With conservatives taking aim at medication abortion, recent surveys have revealed widespread fears that Republicans could also try to outlaw or limit access to birth control, especially those forms of contraception that act by destroying a fertilized egg in the moments or hours after conception.

The widely used right-wing tactic of declaring that life begins at conception also has proven to be a threat to in vitro fertilization, a medical procedure that involves creating fertilized embryos then destroying most of them.

Alabama’s Christian conservative-dominated Supreme Court recently ruled that all fertilized embryos are human beings, throwing into doubt the legality of the practice.

Most Republicans say they support IVF but many also say they believe life begins at conception, complicating their political position on the issue.

Senate Democrats also plan to introduce a bill guaranteeing access to IVF, but GOP lawmakers are likely to kill it.

In the House, Democrats are trying to do an end run against the opposition of Speaker Mike Johnson by launching a discharge petition, which requires a majority of 218 members to force bills to be taken up on the House floor.

It’s considered a long shot to win the support of the needed handful of GOP lawmakers even though some moderate Republicans do support reproductive rights.