Chuck Schumer

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news conference on the Right to Contraception Act outside the U.S. Capitol on June 5, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Showing 'What's at Stake in November,' Senate GOP Blocks Right to Contraception Act

"Today was not a 'show vote'—this was a show-us-who-you-are vote," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. "And Senate Republicans showed the American people exactly who they are."

U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked consideration of the Right to Contraception Act, a move that Democratic leaders and rights advocates pointed to as further evidence that the GOP is hellbent on further degrading reproductive freedom.

"It's appalling. Shameful. Inexcusable. Grossly out of touch. Today Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to take the simple step of enshrining our right to contraception into federal law when they voted down the Right to Contraception Act," declared Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising. "When Senate Republicans turned their backs on it today, they turned their backs on America's moms."

Reproductive Freedom for All president and CEO Mini Timmaraju said that "if you still need more proof that Republicans are coming for birth control, here it is. Their refusal to protect this popular and fundamental right tells us everything we need to know—and voters won't forget it this November."

Reproductive freedom has been a key issue at all levels of U.S. politics leading up to the general election, when voters will determine who controls Congress and the White House. Democratic President Joe Biden, who supports reproductive rights, is running for reelection and is set to face former Republican President Donald Trump.

The Right to Contraception Act was spearheaded by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The bill would "protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and... protect a healthcare provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception."

Timmaraju thanked the Democratic sponsors and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for trying to advance to a final vote a bill that members of Congress have been fighting for since 2022. She also stressed that "as Republican lawmakers and Donald Trump continue to threaten access to contraception, protecting it is more important than ever."

After the procedural vote on Wednesday, Biden's reelection campaign released a video in which Vice President Kamala Harris notes that Trump—who has bragged about appointing three of the six U.S. Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wadesignaled on camera last month that his election would threaten access to not only abortion care but also contraceptives.

"If given an opportunity, Donald Trump would sign a national abortion ban," Harris warns in the clip. "A second Trump term would really mean more harm, more pain, and less freedoms. But we're not going to let that happen."

While Republican senators on Wednesday tried to dismiss Democrats' push for a vote on the contraception bill as a political stunt, rights advocates and reporters have highlighted right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion two years ago in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that reversedRoe.

"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court's substantive due process precedents," Thomas wrote, setting his sights on the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling in favor of the liberty to use contraceptives, the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision overturning a state law that criminalized consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges opinion that affirmed same-sex couples can legally marry nationwide.

As Schumer emphasized during a press conference after the vote, since Dobbs, Republican policymakers have created what critics in the chamber call "a healthcare nightmare across America" by ramping legislative attacks on reproductive rights—as was detailed during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"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. They showed that they're not willing to stand up and protect something that 92% of Americans support," Schumer said Wednesday. "To Senate Republicans who argue federal protections for birth control are unnecessary, go ask the people of Virginia what they think after their Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have protected contraceptives at the state level."

"Go ask the people of Nevada what they think after their Republican governor also vetoed a bill to protect access to birth control," he continued. "And to those who say birth control will never fall at risk, go ask the people of Arizona, or Florida, or Idaho, or Iowa, or Missouri. In each of these states, Republican governors or Republican state legislators are on record blocking protections for birth control access in some form or another."

The majority leader—who changed his vote on the Right to Contraception Act to "no" so he has the option to bring it up for a vote again—is planning a similar push for a bill to protect access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) next week. Several rights leaders have connected the fight for abortion and contraception rights to fertility care, including Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center.

"We are outraged that some senators blocked passage of the Right to Contraception Act, especially at a time when extremists are threatening access to birth control, blocking access to IVF, and criminalizing abortion," she said. "Their refusal to vote to protect our right to birth control goes against the will of the people and it demonstrates that our right to contraception is not safe."

Reproductive Equity Now similarly warned on social media that "it's obvious from today's vote that anti-abortion extremists will not stop at banning abortion. They will attempt to block our access to birth control, attack IVF, eliminate LGBTQ+ healthcare, and decimate our reproductive autonomy. This is what's at stake in November."

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