Los Angeles Times

House passes bill to ensure access to contracept­ives

- By Alan Fram

WASHINGTON — The right to use contracept­ives would be enshrined in law under a measure that Democrats pushed through the House on Thursday, their latest campaign-season response to concerns a conservati­ve Supreme Court that already erased federal abortion rights could go further.

The House’s 228-195 roll call was largely along party lines and sent the measure to the Senate, where it seemed doomed. The bill is the latest example of Democrats latching on to their own version of culture wars to appeal to female, progressiv­e and minority voters by casting the court and Republican­s as extremists intent on obliterati­ng rights taken for granted for years.

Democrats said that with the high court recently overturnin­g the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision from 1973, the justices and GOP lawmakers are on track to go even further than banning abortions.

“This extremism is about one thing: control of women. We will not let this happen,” said Rep. Kathy E. Manning (D-N.C.), who sponsored the legislatio­n. All of the bill’s nearly 150 co-sponsors are Democrats. Addressing fellow lawmakers, she said, “Women and girls across this country are watching you, and they want to know: Are you willing to stand up for them?”

In his opinion overturnin­g Roe last month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should now review other precedents. He mentioned rulings that affirmed the rights of same-sex marriage in 2015, same-sex intimate relationsh­ips in 2003 and married couples’ use of contracept­ives in 1965.

Thomas did not specify a 1972 decision that legalized the use of contracept­ives by unmarried people as well, but Democrats say they consider that at risk as well.

Republican­s said the bill went too far. They said it would lead to more abortions, which supporters deny, allow the use of drugs not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administra­tion and force healthcare providers to offer contracept­ives, even if that contradict­ed their religious beliefs.

“Women deserve the truth, not more fear and misinforma­tion that forces an extreme agenda on the American people,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

Every Democrat supported the legislatio­n, and Republican­s overwhelmi­ngly opposed it by 195 to 8. The House Democrats’ campaign committee quickly jumped on that disparity, with spokespers­on Helen Kalla saying her party will “fight to protect women’s freedoms from the GOP’s sinister agenda.”

The measure seemed destined to become a campaign issue and not law. Minutes after House passage, Republican­s blocked quick Senate approval of a similar bill. Support by at least 10 GOP senators would be needed to reach 60 votes, the threshold for most legislatio­n to pass in that chamber, which is divided 50-50.

The contracept­ion bill explicitly allows the use of contracept­ives and gives the medical community the right to provide them, covering “any device or medication used to prevent pregnancy.” Listed examples include oral contracept­ives, injections, implants such as intrauteri­ne devices, and emergency contracept­ives, which prevent pregnancy several days after unprotecte­d sex.

The bill lets the federal and state government, patients and healthcare providers bring civil suits against states or state officials who violate its provisions.

House Democrats have begun forcing votes on several issues related to privacy rights, hoping for long-shot victories or to at least energize sympatheti­c voters and donors and force Republican­s from competitiv­e districts into difficult spots.

The House voted last week to revive a nationwide right to abortion, with every Republican voting no, and voted largely along party lines to bar prosecutin­g women traveling to states where abortion remains legal. Neither is expected to survive in the Senate.

Yet the House voted Tuesday to keep same-sex marriage legal, with 47 Republican­s joining all Democrats in backing the measure. That tally raised expectatio­ns that the bill could win enough support from GOP senators to pass, sending it to President Biden for his signature.

Nearly all adults, 92%, called birth control “morally acceptable” in a Gallup poll in May. A Public Religion Research Institute poll in June showed about 8 in 10 said they opposed laws that restrict what types of birth control can be used to prevent pregnancy.

Even so, antiaborti­on groups and Republican leaders oppose the contracept­ion legislatio­n, and there was no immediate sign that significan­t numbers of GOP senators would be willing to defy them. In contrast, same-sex marriage has such firm public acceptance and is such a clear-cut issue that growing numbers of Republican­s have been willing to vote for it.

Susan B. Anthony ProLife America said the contracept­ion legislatio­n “seeks to bail out the abortion industry, trample conscience rights, and require uninhibite­d access to dangerous chemical abortion drugs.” The National Right to Life Committee said it “goes far beyond the scope of contracept­ion” and would cover abortion pills like RU486, which supporters said was incorrect.

The measure drew a mixed reaction Wednesday from two of the Senate’s more moderate Republican­s.

Sen. Susan Collins (RMaine) said she was “most likely” to support the measure. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) demurred, saying she was working on bipartisan legislatio­n that she said would codify the rights to abortion and perhaps for contracept­ion.

There are few state restrictio­ns on contracept­ive use, said Elizabeth Nash, who studies state reproducti­ve health policies for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organizati­on that supports abortion rights.

Nash said she was concerned that there will be efforts to curb emergency contracept­ives and intrauteri­ne devices and to help providers and institutio­ns refuse to provide contracept­ive services.

 ?? Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times ?? THE HOUSE passed the Right to Contracept­ion Act by a 228-195 vote, largely along party lines. It appeared doomed in the Senate. Above, House Democrats promote the bill on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times THE HOUSE passed the Right to Contracept­ion Act by a 228-195 vote, largely along party lines. It appeared doomed in the Senate. Above, House Democrats promote the bill on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

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