While eight Republicans joined Democrats to pass a House bill that would protect access to birth control without government interference, 228-195, other Republicans — including some who say they support access to contraceptives — claim the bill could open the door to abortion.
And others call it an unnecessary move by Democrats designed simply to appeal to voters in the November midterm elections.
According to The Associated Press, “House Democrats have begun forcing votes on several issues related to privacy rights, hoping for long-shot victories or to at least energize sympathetic voters and donors and force Republicans from competitive districts into difficult spots.”
The stated goal of the Right to Contraception Act, introduced by Rep. Kathy Manning, D-North Carolina, is to “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.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, “The legislation protects access to any contraceptive device, including all contraceptive products approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including intrauterine devices known as IUDs and emergency contraception such as Plan B.”
Inclusion of IUDs and Plan B is believed to reduce the chance that Republicans in the Senate will support the measure. And to overcome the filibuster, 10 Republicans would have to agree to it.
According to The New York Times, four of the Republicans in the House who broke with their party to support the birth control bill are not seeking reelection, including Reps. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan.
The article said that “the remainder — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Nancy Mace of South Carolina and María Elvira Salazar of Florida — have sought to appeal to moderates and independent voters to bolster their reelection bids.”
Driving the bills
The contraception bill follows House passage earlier this week of legislation to protect same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. Forty-seven Republicans joined Democrats in its passage, but the fate of that measure is also in question in the Senate, where it, too, would need support from at least 10 Republican senators.
The flurry of bills by Democrats to protect personal rights arises from a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court decision last month overturning the federal right to abortion. Thomas wrote that if Roe was based on faulty legal reasoning, so was the reasoning behind some other rights the Supreme Court had upheld, including same-sex marriage and access to contraception. Those, he wrote, “should be reconsidered.”
In contrast, as CBS News reported, Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
Contraception and abortion
In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that married couples have a constitutional right to buy and use birth control without government restriction. Later, the Supreme Court extended that protection regardless of marital status.
A Gallup poll in May found 92% of Americans deem contraception “morally acceptable.” And the 2017-2019 National Survey of Family Growth said roughly 65% of women ages 15-49 use contraception.
Some Republicans opposed the contraception bill for fear it would open the door to abortion rights, as The New York Times reported.
“Some Republicans said on Thursday that they supported contraception in practice but viewed Democrats’ bill as a gateway to allowing abortion. Anti-abortion groups encouraged lawmakers to oppose the measure, claiming that the bill’s definition of contraceptives could be interpreted to include pills that induce abortion,” the article said.
During House debate, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, called the bill a “Trojan horse” for more abortions. “Democrats are spreading fear and misinformation to score political points,” she said.
In contrast, Mace, one of the Republicans who voted for the contraceptive bill, told USA Today that improved health care for women after Roe v. Wade should include access to birth control.
“There’s a reason why we’re having so many of these abortions; if women had access to birth control, maybe we wouldn’t have a reason to have so many of these children murdered in the womb,” she said. “If you’re going to ban (abortion), you’ve got to make sure women have access to health care, medical care, prenatal care and birth control.”
Democrats sought unanimous consent for a similar contraception bill in the Senate, but that failed when Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, objected.
“While the language touts supporting access to family planning, in reality it’s likely a $5 billion gift for Planned Parenthood and other abortion-related providers,” she told the Times.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Plan B and IUDs can terminate a pregnancy. IUDs now prevent not only implantation of a fertilized egg, but also fertilization, as does Plan B.