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Senate Republicans kill ‘Right to Contraception Act’ sponsored by Hickenlooper, Bennet and other Democrats

Republicans in the US Senate yesterday voted against a measure to codify and strengthen the legal right to contraceptives at the federal level. The Birth Control Right Act, introduced last summer, was sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and others.

“In an America where women are forced to carry out pregnancies that can seriously endanger their lives, contraception is life or death,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “Republicans just voted to limit women’s freedom.”

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, argued that the bill was motivated by the upcoming election, where Republican opposition to abortion has proven unpopular among voters .

“The Democrats are using their power to spread an alarmist and false narrative that there is a problem with access to contraception,” Cassidy said in a press release. “There is no state or territory that bans access to contraception. The Democrats know this, but misleading and scaring voters seems to be the only tool they think they have to get voters to support them this election… This is a political stunt designed to instill fear in the public to prey and deceive in an attempt to influence voters in an election year. Republicans should not play along.”

Last year, Ohio voters approved a ballot initiative, Issue 1, that enshrined reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution — contraception, fertility treatment, abortion and miscarriage care — making the Roe v. Wade-era access in Ohio and protecting “the right to abortion up to the point of fetal viability.” Former President Donald Trump carried Ohio with 53% of the vote in 2020, but 56.6% of voters supported Issue 1. Ohio joined California, Michigan and Vermont in amending their state constitutions to protect abortion, and this worries anti-abortion activists.

This year, Colorado voters will decide Proposition 89, the ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion access in the Colorado Constitution.

Supporters, including U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), rallied for Prop 89 in January.

Since the Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which was annulled Roe v. Wadea number of states have passed legislation to ban or restrict access to abortion, and four states – Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas – have taken steps to restrict access to contraceptives.

The Right to Contraception Act cited the concurring opinion of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Dobbsand notes: “Judge Thomas, in his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationstated that the Supreme Court “should reconsider all substantive precedents of this Court, including Griswold, LaurensAnd Obergefell‘ and that the Court ‘has a duty to correct the error identified in those precedents’ by overruling them.

The Right to Contraception Act would have lifted pre-existing state restrictions. Specifically, the bill would have guaranteed the legal right for individuals to obtain and use contraception, and for health care providers to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information, referrals, and services related to contraception. It would prohibit the federal government or any state from administering, implementing, or enforcing any law, rule, regulation, standard, or other provision that would prohibit or restrict the sale, dispensing, or use of contraception, and the Department of Justice, providers and individuals harmed by restrictions on access to contraception made unlawful under the legislation, to go to court to enforce these rights.

The Right to Contraception Act was also introduced and passed by the House of Representatives in 2022, but failed to make progress in the Senate. Conservatives argued that the act violated the First Amendment.

Although most of the focus of anti-abortion activists is on the act of abortion itself, many activists, such as those in the Abortion Abolition Movement, oppose the use of hormonal contraception due to the claim that it is an abortifacient.

Others oppose birth control because of their deeply held religious beliefs, and both were involved in the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby ruling, in which the Supreme Court ruled that certain employers can block their employees’ access to contraception, an exemption from the coverage guarantee under the Affordable Care Act.

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