Senate Republicans Block Bill Codifying Right To Contraception

WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation guaranteeing access to contraception, calling it unnecessary and accusing proponents of the bill of staging a political stunt ahead of the November elections.

Democrats brought the bill to the floor out of fear that reproductive rights will be further threatened after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to an abortion two years ago. Republican lawmakers in some states have proposed or discussed bills aimed at restricting certain types of contraception, specifically IUDs. Anti-abortion activists have also inaccurately characterized IUDs, emergency contraception and birth control pills as causing abortions.

“Today, we live in a country where not only 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,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference. “That’s utterly medieval. It’s sickening.”

The bill, titled “The Right to Contraception Act,” would guarantee for people to obtain and use contraceptives and for health providers to prescribe contraceptives. The vote on the measure fell along party lines, short of the 60 it needed to advance. Of the Republicans, only moderate Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted to proceed.

The right to contraceptives is protected by long-standing Supreme Court precedents of Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird. But Democrats noted there’s nothing stopping the high court from repealing or curtailing those decisions, as it did for abortion rights by striking down Roe v. Wade. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence to the decision striking down abortion rights directly called for the court to reconsider the right to contraception.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, also made comments recently that set off alarm bells about the future of access to contraceptives. When asked by an interviewer last month about the morning-after pill — a type of emergency contraception, which does not cause abortion — Trump said the issue should be up to the states, before later backtracking.

Nevertheless, Republicans accused Democrats of inventing a crisis to play up on the campaign trail as they seek to defend their narrow Senate majority.

“Contraception is available in every state, there is no state where access is limited,” Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) said. “I completely, 100% support women’s access to contraception. I’m really disappointed in my Democratic colleagues.”

“It’s my belief they’ve engaged in a summer of scare tactics,” she added, referring to coming votes on additional legislation dealing with reproductive rights, including guaranteeing access to in vitro fertilization.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is facing reelection this year, predicted Democrats would use Wednesday’s failed vote to attack “every Republican in the country.”

Democrats scoffed at the GOP’s efforts to downplay the threat to access to contraception, comparing it to similar Republican denials about the threat to abortion rights prior to the fall of Roe v. Wade.

“Oh really? There’s no threat?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked incredulously. “That’s what they also said about abortion, that there was no threat to abortion … Don’t tell me there’s no threat. Too many people fell for that last time. Nobody’s falling for it again.”