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Reproductive freedom advocates protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 2016. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

'Beyond Unacceptable': Progressives Rip Senate Republicans for Blocking Birth Control Bill

"Today, Republicans showed the American people where they stand: No abortions, and no birth control to prevent the need for one," said Sen. Ed Markey.

Brett Wilkins

Democratic U.S. lawmakers and reproductive freedom advocates on Wednesday denounced Senate Republicans for blocking proposed legislation that would safeguard access to contraception as GOP-led states enact total abortion bans in the wake of Roe v. Wade's reversal.

"These extremists are pulling back the curtain to reveal just how out of touch they are with Americans. Voters won't forget it come November."

Arguing that the bill "purposefully goes far beyond the scope of contraception," Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) objected to a request from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to pass the Right to Contraception Act by unanimous consent.

The House of Representatives passed the measure—which would codify the right to obtain and use contraceptives and protect physicians who provide them—last week. Just eight Republican House lawmakers joined all 220 of their Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill.

"It has been nearly 60 years since the Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut—and affirmed Americans' right to privacy and with it: their right to contraception," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement. "So you'd think this would be a settled issue. And for the vast majority of Americans—it is. Yet, as we just saw, somehow—in the year 2022—this isn't a settled issue for Republican politicians."

Markey asserted that "today, Republicans showed the American people where they stand: No abortions, and no birth control to prevent the need for one. The right-wing extremists in the United States Senate and on the Supreme Court are way out of touch with the vast majority of the American people, and yet they still want to tell them what to do with their bodies and their lives.

"While Republicans refuse to protect our fundamental rights as the Supreme Court and right-wing state legislatures take them away," Markey added, "my Democratic colleagues and I will continue our efforts to keep in place the fundamental, privacy-based rights that Americans have had for decades, and codify into federal law the right to contraception."

Progressive activists have been warning that access to contraceptives could be imperiled by the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority. In his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the 6-3 May ruling that voided half a century of constitutional abortion rights, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly took aim at Griswold—as well as landmark cases legalizing same-sex intimate relations and marriage—as previous high court decisions that should be revisited.

Reproductive rights groups echoed the Democratic senators' frustration and resolve.

"Senate Republicans' refusal to protect contraception access is beyond unacceptable," NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. "As our country grapples with the ripple effects of the Supreme Court ending the right to abortion, MAGA Republicans continue to find every excuse to exert power and control over us all."

"Contraception is a key way people can decide if, when, and how to start or grow a family," she added, "and these extremists are pulling back the curtain to reveal just how out of touch they are with Americans. Voters won't forget it come November."

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