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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
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With eye on election, Senate Dems look to shield access to contraception

Democrats teed up the legislation to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that rolled back the constitutional right to an abortion.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate is set to vote this week on a bill that would establish federal protections for contraception, as Democratic leadership resolves to put reproductive freedoms at the center of their legislative agenda in the months leading up to the 2024 election.

In a dear colleague letter published Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the upper chamber would likely take up the measure, known as the Right to Contraception Act, during floor action Wednesday.

If made law, the bill sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono would clarify federal law to ensure that it is legal for Americans to access contraception and for health care providers to distribute it. The measure would also make it illegal for the federal government or states to restrict access to contraception.

The midweek vote will be just the opening volley of Senate action aimed at reversing what Schumer framed as a conservative crackdown on reproductive freedoms, citing the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling overturning the constitutional right to an abortion as the prime example.

“There’s no question in the American people’s minds that Republicans have brought our country to this point,” the New York Democrat wrote. “The hard-right MAGA Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade opened the floodgates for Republicans to force their anti-reproductive freedom, anti-women agenda down the throats of all Americans.”

In the nearly two years since the high court handed down its decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 20 states have imposed severe restrictions on when women can receive an abortion.

Echoing the concerns of reproductive rights advocates and other lawmakers, Schumer contended that Republicans had no plans to stop at restricting abortion.

The Senate majority leader pointed to the debate surrounding a February ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court which defined frozen embryos used in in vitro fertilization procedures as “children” and made destroying those embryos a crime under state law.

The decision was panned by Democrats and Republicans alike, and the Alabama state legislature moved to protect IVF just weeks later.

But Senate Republicans, Schumer wrote, “had the chance to join our caucus in passing legislation to preserve IVF protections under federal law, but they refused.”

Republicans, though, have accused Democrats of misrepresenting their party’s position on IVF, which lawmakers have positioned as a benefit for families. A pair of GOP senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Katie Britt of Alabama, unveiled their own bill last month that would bar states with IVF restrictions from accessing federal funding through Medicaid.

Schumer also argued Sunday that contraception was on the table for Republicans.

“We’ve seen right-wing judges, justices and extremist Republicans calling on the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutional right to contraception,” he wrote, “and states are trying to ban access to some or all contraceptives by restricting public funding for these products and services.”

In his opinion for the 2022 Dobbs decision, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the court could revisit several cases, including Griswold v. Connecticut, which established access to birth control without government intervention.

These threats to reproductive rights, Schumer said, underscore a need for swift legislative action.

“Democrats will never relent until we reverse the immense damage MAGA Republicans and the Supreme Court have inflicted, and we remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect women, families and reproductive freedom,” he said. “Senate Democrats will be putting reproductive freedoms front and center.”

If the Senate votes on the proposed contraception legislation as scheduled on Wednesday, it will come just three weeks before the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
Categories / Government, National, Politics

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