Los Angeles Times

A federal right to contracept­ion

Protecting access to birth control should not be controvers­ial. Yet, somehow it is for Congress.


This week the U.S. House of Representa­tives is expected to take up the Right to Contracept­ion Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Kathy E. Manning, a Democrat from North Carolina, establishe­s a federal right to contracept­ion — meaning women would have the right to use birth control and medical providers and pharmacies the right to provide it.

This bill would put into law a right that the Supreme Court addressed three times over the past half-century, when it granted married couples the freedom to use birth control in Griswold vs. Connecticu­t in 1965, then in two other cases when the right to contracept­ion was extended to unmarried people and then to minors.

Contracept­ion is recognized internatio­nally as preventive healthcare and an essential tool for women to plan the course of their lives. But as we have learned in the last month, the conservati­ve majority of the Supreme Court has no problem overturnin­g precedents. Alarmingly, Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurrenc­e in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organizati­on decision, urged the court to reexamine Griswold as well as the 2015 Obergefell decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry and the 2003 Lawrence decision that overturned laws prohibitin­g gay sex. Given that the court just overturned Roe vs. Wade, it’s impossible to disregard the possibilit­y that these other essential freedoms are now at risk.

Every single member of Congress should vote for the Right to Contracept­ion Act. But if the squabbling over the bill in the Rules Committee on Monday is any indication, that won’t be the case. And that’s an outrage.

After Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat from Washington state and a physician, laid out the basics of the bill, she was met with a cavalcade of criticism and an attempt to slow-walk it by Republican­s who complained they hadn’t been asked to work on the bill with Democrats or given a chance to air their concerns. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, also from Washington state, insisted she supported access to contracept­ion but said the bill was “vague and unclear,” didn’t protect women from forced sterilizat­ions and was “a Trojan horse for more abortions,” among other things. Why, she asked, did the Democrats not come to her and say, “Let’s work on a bill together.”

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, a Republican from Texas and a doctor, echoed her. “Why haven’t we discussed this more?” he asked plaintivel­y.

Maybe because the Democrats suspected the Republican­s would try to slow the bill and drag it through half a dozen committee sessions where they could bicker over words until the bill was completely watered down.

Over and over, Schrier explained that the bill was simple and straightfo­rward. “It is not about abortion. It’s about contracept­ion,” she said, stating the obvious and adding that medication abortion pills are not prescribed as contracept­ives. “It has nothing to do with sterilizat­ion. These are all red herrings. There is nothing confusing in the bill. It is a straightfo­rward bill that says women, people, have a right to contracept­ion, and doctors, healthcare providers, have a right to prescribe it. It doesn’t make anybody do anything,” Schrier said.

“I feel like this debate might be more appropriat­e to 1870 than it is to 2022,” said committee member Joe Morelle, a Democrat from New York. “I think most Americans would be aghast if they heard this conversati­on and thought there was a real chance this wouldn’t pass unanimousl­y in the House of Representa­tives.”

Americans should be aghast. For more than half a century, they have enjoyed the right to buy and use birth control, and the freedom that contracept­ives give women — and men — to decide if and when they want to become parents. But the conservati­ve majority on the Supreme Court has demonstrat­ed its willingnes­s to upend precedent and roll back freedoms, and now nothing — not even birth control — can be taken for granted. Americans should take note of the Republican­s who balked at supporting the bill and voted against it.

 ?? Cliff Owen Associated Press ?? THE U.S. House of Representa­tives is expected to take up the Right to Contracept­ion Act this week.
Cliff Owen Associated Press THE U.S. House of Representa­tives is expected to take up the Right to Contracept­ion Act this week.

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