Senate GOP Blocks Bill Protecting Contraception Access

June 6, 2024 by Anna Claire Miller
Senate GOP Blocks Bill Protecting Contraception Access
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, co-sponsor of the Right to Contraception Act.

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation that would have protected women’s access to contraception, dismissing the bill as nothing more than a political stunt by Democrats in an election year.

The bill, the Right to Contraception Act, needed 60 votes to advance, but fell short in a 51-39 vote.

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is part of a broader effort by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Democrats to draw attention to the issues they believe will help them hold control of the chamber after the November election.

Ahead of the vote, Schumer said Democrats would “put reproductive freedoms front and center before this chamber, so that the American people can see for themselves who will stand up to defend their fundamental liberties.”

A similar vote on a bill that would ensure nationwide access to in vitro fertilization is expected next week.

Had it passed, the Right to Contraception Act would have protected access to a wide range of contraceptive methods, medications and devices that are marketed under Food and Drug Administration approval. 

These include oral contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, internal and external condoms, long-acting reversible contraceptives, vaginal barrier methods, injectables, vaginal rings, transdermal patches, fertility awareness methods and sterilization procedures. 

It would have specifically protected access to contraception by:

  • Establishing a statutory right for individuals to use and purchase contraceptives.
  • Allowing health care providers to prescribe and distribute contraceptives and information related to contraception.
  • Making restrictions on contraception unlawful.

“As Republican states across the country roll back fundamental reproductive rights, it is critical we protect access to contraceptives at the federal level,” said Hirono on Wednesday. “The Right to Contraception Act is a straightforward bill that would do exactly that, protecting patients’ right to access contraception, as well as providers’ right to provide it.”

Republican Sens. Susan Collins, of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, were the only GOP members who voted with the Democrats. 

“The way that we can prevent abortions is to provide for a level of access to contraception,” Murkowski said in a statement after the vote.

Republicans in the chamber held a different view.

Sens. Katie Britt, R-Ala., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and a number of their colleagues maintained, for instance, that contraception is widely available and the vote in the Senate chamber was meaningless.

“There is no threat to access to contraception, which is legal in every state and required by law to be offered at no cost by health insurers,” they said in a joint statement.

For his part, Schumer shrugged off the critics.

“Today was not a show vote, this was a show-us-who-you-are vote,” he said.

Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans support access to contraceptives.

An April 2023 Impact Research poll found 79% of likely voters view oral birth control favorably and 73% of likely voters support the birth control pill being sold over the counter.

In addition, a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year found 88% of Americans hold the view that birth control is morally acceptable.

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