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Codifying contraception? House expected to pass bill

The move would protect contraceptive access from future Supreme Court action, after Justice Clarence Thomas raised the possibility

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds an event with Democratic women House members and advocates for reproductive freedom ahead of the vote on the Right to Contraception Act.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds an event with Democratic women House members and advocates for reproductive freedom ahead of the vote on the Right to Contraception Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

The U.S. House is expected to vote this week on a bill that would guarantee the statutory right to access contraception.

The Right to Contraception Act, HR8373, would “protect a person’s ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.”

The House voted Tuesday to protect same-sex marriage, but that measure may face hurdles in the Senate.

According to The Washington Post, “The two bills — and Democrats’ urgency in moving them — are the direct result of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last month. In his concurrence with that decision, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the high court should also examine previous rulings that legalized the right for married couples to buy and use contraception without government restriction (Griswold v. Connecticut), same-sex relationships (Lawrence v. Texas) and marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges).”

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote, according to the Post. “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

According to The Dispatch, during a recent Rules Committee hearing, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, a practicing OB-GYN, said “he doesn’t believe anyone is seriously trying to prevent contraception access in America. He said Republicans would have collaborated with Democrats on the bill if they had brought it up in a committee.”

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, agreed, the article said. “Don’t complain about not getting agreement when you don’t even try,” he said.

There’s broad speculation that Democrats are hoping that the overturning of Roe v. Wade and talk of making it hard to get contraception or rolling back same-sex marriage rights will help party candidates in the midterm elections.

The Washington Post reported, “A New York Times/Siena College poll of registered voters this month saw majority support for abortion access increase since September 2020, from 60 percent to 65 percent.”

But the article said the “same poll also showed that their argument may not break through as much as Democrats hope. Among registered voters, abortion ranked fifth behind crime, gun policies and the economy as the issues guiding their vote in November. Inflation and cost of living was the top issue of concern.”

Even if the House passes the bill, its fate in the Senate is hard to predict. At least 10 Republicans would be needed to defeat the filibuster.

Tuesday, three senators introduced a Senate version of the bill. “Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Mazie Hiron, D-Hawaii, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., today introduced, with the backing of over half of the Senate Democratic caucus, the Right to Contraception Actlegislation that would codify the fundamental and constitutional right to contraception, which the Supreme Court first recognized more than half a century ago in its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut,” a press release said.

This story will be updated.