Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Outrage as Senate Republicans Block Right to Contraception Bill

Senate showdown: Contraception bill blocked by Republicans, setting stage for reproductive rights fight in an election year.

Chuck Schumer contraception bill blocked by Republicans

In a display of the deep divide between Republicans and Democrats on reproductive rights, Senate Republicans blocked a crucial bill that would have federally guaranteed access to birth control. The Democrats’ proposal, known as the Right to Contraception Act, aimed to protect the right to obtain and use contraceptives—a vital health care service that millions rely on daily. Despite garnering a 51-39 majority, the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed to breach the Republican filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not mince words after the vote, attacking Republicans for blocking the bill. “Today was not a show vote. This was a ‘show us who you are’ vote, and Senate Republicans showed the American people exactly who they are,” Schumer said. The vote comes as part of a broader strategy by Democratic leaders to spotlight Republican opposition to reproductive rights ahead of the critical 2024 elections.

The implications of this vote could not be more alarming. Should former President Donald Trump win in November, the Republican Party’s agenda to roll back reproductive freedoms will undoubtedly gain momentum. There is a growing concern that this could culminate in a federal ban on birth control, signaling a drastic shift backward to times when women had minimal control over their reproductive decisions. 

The Need for Federal Protection

Democrats have seized upon recent legislative defeats as a sign of the urgency to protect reproductive rights. In recent months, Republicans have blocked multiple efforts to secure contraception and IVF access. It’s a part of an alarming trend that began with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, which resulted in many states imposing severe restrictions or outright bans on abortion. The reversal by the Supreme Court was facilitated by the three anti-abortion justices nominated by Donald Trump.

A Gallup poll conducted in 2023 found that 88 percent of Americans consider birth control to be morally acceptable, a sentiment echoed by 86 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats. Yet, despite this overwhelming public support, Senate Republicans claim the Right to Contraception Act is a “phony vote” and unnecessary government overreach. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) remarked, “It’s a phony vote because contraception to my knowledge is not illegal. It’s not unavailable. To suggest that it’s somehow in jeopardy should be embarrassing, but it’s hard to embarrass some people around here.”

However, the fears are neither phony nor exaggerated, especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Some states have already attempted to criminalize various forms of contraception. In Oklahoma, Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation that could outlaw intrauterine devices (IUDs), and significant opposition exists within the party against emergency contraceptives like the morning-after pill. Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin recently vetoed a bill aimed at protecting contraception access, citing concerns about religious freedom despite claiming to support birth control rights.

The Stakes of 2024

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) encapsulated the Democratic urgency when she stated, “We saw what the Supreme Court did on abortion, and now there’s a real risk they may do the same thing on contraception…I’m really sick of this idea that the Republicans think they can say two things simultaneously—they can talk to their extremist group and say, ‘I’ll give you everything you want. We are going to ban abortion, IVF, contraception, everything you want,’ and then try to say to the rest of America, ‘Boy, we don’t want any part in that.’”

The legislative battles don’t stop at the contraceptive debate. The Senate is also poised to vote on protections for in vitro fertilization (IVF) next week. This follows Alabama’s Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that embryos created by IVF can be considered children, prompting clinics to halt treatments to avoid potential legal ramifications.

Democrats have cast Republican reluctance to codify these protections as unmistakable evidence of a broader agenda to strip away reproductive freedoms. “Every day another woman is confronted with the agonizing reality that she does not have control over her own body,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “That Republican politicians are forcing her to remain pregnant.”

Trump’s Flip-Flop on Contraception Restrictions Raises Eyebrows

Former President Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee, recently waded into the contraception debate, initially expressing openness to supporting birth control restrictions before quickly reversing his stance after widespread backlash. He later asserted that he “has never and never will” advocate for such limits. 

Justice Clarence Thomas alarmingly suggested that the court “should reconsider” its precedent on cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, which guarantees the right to contraception. If Trump were to secure another term, it’s likely that we will see a nationwide abortion and contraception ban. 

Biden Slams GOP Opposition to Contraception Bill

The Democratic response has been resolute. Schumer has showed a firm resolve to continue bringing reproductive issues to the forefront of Senate debates. He reiterated, “Democrats will act to safeguard and strengthen IVF access for all Americans, so that everyone has a chance to start a family.” 

President Joe Biden has also doubled down on his commitment to safeguarding reproductive rights, calling the Republican opposition to the contraception bill “unacceptable.” He urged Congress to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law and safeguard the right to contraception once and for all.

Trump Re-Election Threatens Contraception Access

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) remains dismissive of concerns regarding contraception access, asserting, “Nobody’s going to overturn Griswold. No way.” 

Behind closed doors, the Republican strategy appears to be to delay and divert attention away from the issue, with discussions of offering alternative bills and extending debates to tie up the Senate floor and impede other planned Democratic efforts, such as protecting IVF rights.

The Senate vote represents a dire warning about the future of reproductive rights in America. Should Trump win in November, the assault on contraception access will intensify, making it imperative for voters to recognize what is at stake and act accordingly. The fight for reproductive autonomy is far from over, with the upcoming 2024 elections set to be a pivotal moment in this ongoing struggle.