Senate blocks contraception protection bill

An election-year bill deigned women's access to contraception was rebuffed by the U.S. Senate after the bill did not receive the necessary 60 votes to move ahead.


National News

June 7, 2024 - 3:00 PM

Photo by PIXABAY

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans have blocked legislation designed to protect women’s access to contraception, arguing that the bill was just a political stunt as Democrats mount an election-year effort to put GOP senators on the record on reproductive rights issues,

The test vote won a 51-39 majority, but that was well short of the 60 votes to move ahead on the legislation.

Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall voted in opposition. The Sunflower State’s other Senator, Jerry Moran, did not cast a vote.

It came as the Senate has abandoned hopes of doing serious bipartisan legislation before the election. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Democrats are trying to instead spotlight issues they believe can help them win the presidency and keep the Senate in November. A similar vote on ensuring nationwide access to in vitro fertilization is expected next week.

That bill is expected to similarly stall in the Senate, where Democrats need 60 votes to move forward on legislation. Schumer said Tuesday that 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.”

The effort comes as Democrats worry that reproductive rights will be further threatened after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to an abortion two years ago and as they continue to see that access as one of their most potent election-year issues. President Joe Biden’s campaign has embraced reproductive rights as a key to winning undecided voters, especially women.

“Contraception is health care, essential health care, that millions of people rely on,” said Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat. She said the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade “foretold more chaos to come.”

President Joe Biden called the Republican opposition to the bill “unacceptable.”

“We will continue to urge Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law and safeguard the right to contraception once and for all,” Biden said.

Minority Republicans have scoffed at the votes, saying the political messaging votes were unserious distractions from legislation they would like to vote on. “I expect we will see a lot more show votes this summer,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, on Tuesday.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of two Republicans to vote with Democrats to move forward on the bill, said Monday that she would want the legislation to be amended to include more religious liberty protections. “It is clearly a messaging attempt and not a serious attempt in itself,” she said.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who along with Collins supports abortion rights, also voted to move forward on the legislation.

Many Republicans who voted against consideration of the bill said they support access to contraception but believe the legislation is unnecessary.

“The Democrats are using their power to push an alarmist and false narrative that there is a problem accessing contraception,” said Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee.

Democrats have moved to protect various rights in the wake of the Roe decision, particularly after Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion that suggested the court also reconsider previous opinions that prohibited bans on contraceptives, sodomy and same-sex marriage.

But the Senate push on reproductive access this year differs from bipartisan legislation passed in 2022 that would protect same-sex marriage. A vote on that bill was delayed until after that year’s midterm elections to try and avoid political complications, and 12 Republicans eventually supported it, sending it to Biden’s desk.