Senate to vote on contraception bill as Democrats put GOP on record

Washington — The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on legislation to protect access to contraception, as Democrats work to put reproductive rights at center stage heading into November’s election.

The bill, called the Right to Contraception Act, would codify the right to contraception in federal law. For Senate Democrats, the effort has been a long time coming. The legislation was first introduced in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s move to strike down the federal right to abortion in 2022, which prompted Democratic lawmakers’ concern that birth control could be next. Two years on, they’re bringing attention to the issue — and to the stances of their GOP colleagues — as they try to hold on to their narrow control of the Senate. 

“Federal protections for contraceptives are a critical piece of protecting women’s reproductive freedoms,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday on the Senate floor, touting the Senate’s upcoming move to “defend the freedom of choice with a vote on the Right to Contraception Act.”

The New York Democrat warned of Republican efforts in states to block protections for access to contraception, saying “it is all the more reason to move to protect contraception at the federal level.”

“To those who think that federal action protecting access to birth control is unnecessary, just look at what’s happening in states like Virginia and Nevada and Arizona, where Republicans are openly blocking these very protections,” Schumer said. “I would hope that protecting access to birth control would be the definition of an easy, uncontroversial decision here in the Senate. But the vote will tell all when we gavel in tomorrow.”

Still, support for the bill is expected to fall short in Wednesday’s vote. Though it passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2022, efforts to pass the bill in the Senate by unanimous consent have been blocked by Republicans on two occasions. And some Senate Republicans have claimed that the move is unnecessary, arguing that contraception isn’t under fire in the U.S.

But the vote is part of a broader push by Senate Democrats over reproductive rights this month, and comes as just one part of a larger plan to put Republicans in difficult positions over the issues. Schumer said Tuesday that he also intends to bring a new package to protect IVF up for a vote “very soon.” 

A group of Senate Democrats introduced the package to protect access to IVF earlier this week, after the issue gained national attention when an Alabama Supreme Court decision prompted providers to halt fertility treatments and brought attention to IVF as a possible new front in the fight over reproductive rights in the U.S. 

The push to put Republicans on the record on issues like IVF and contraception, along with abortion, comes after the issue proved to be a major motivator for voters at the polls in the midterm elections. And though the bills aren’t expected to pass the upper chamber, Schumer made Democrats’ endgame clear. 

“In the coming weeks, Senate Democrats will put reproductive freedoms front and center before this chamber so that the American people can see for themselves who will stand up to defend their fundamental liberties,” he said. 

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