The majority of the House Republican Conference voted on Thursday against enshrining in law the right to obtain and use contraceptives in the United States, calling such a law an affront to religious liberty.
The bill passed by a vote of 228-195, with two Republicans voting "present." Just eight Republicans joined every Democratic House member in voting for H.R. 8373, titled the Right to Contraception Act.
The bill declares,
In order to further public health and to combat efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care, congressional action is necessary to protect access to contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception for everyone, regardless of actual or perceived race, ethnicity, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), income, disability, national origin, immigration status, or geography. ... A person has a statutory right under this Act to obtain contraceptives and to engage in contraception, and a health care provider has a corresponding right to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.
The bill empowers the United States attorney general to "commence a civil action on behalf of the United States" against any state or government official that limits or violates that right.
Democrats said the bill was necessary after the Supreme Court in June overturnedRoe v. Wade, the landmark privacy case that affirmed the right to an abortion before fetal viability.
In a concurring opinion in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Justice Clarence Thomas said other landmark privacy cases should also be reconsidered, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry, and Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case in which the court affirmed that married couples had the right to contraception.
"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents," Thomas wrote, adding that the court has a "a duty to 'correct the error' established in those precedents."
Rep. Kathy Manning, the North Carolina Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said ahead of the vote, "The Supreme Court's decision stripping away the right to abortion has emboldened extremist attacks on women's freedoms. Today, the House will vote on my #RightToContraception Act that protects birth control for all by enshrining the right to contraception in federal law."
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the bill "the Payouts for Planned Parenthood Act" and said in a floor speech on July 18, "Unfortunately, today, rather than work with us, Democrats are again spreading fear and misinformation in an attempt to pass a poorly drafted bill, which opens the door further to their extreme abortion-on-demand agenda. ... First, this bill is a trojan horse for more abortions."
Repeating a talking point used often by Republicans, Rodgers mischaracterized certain drugs and devices as abortifacients, claiming of the bill, "It defines the term contraception so broadly it includes drugs used for chemical abortions and would permit the use of certain contraceptives to be used off-label for abortions. It would send more taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, freeing up more funds for them to provide abortions and end the lives of the most helpless among us."
State Republican legislators across the country are already talking about banning certain kinds of contraception in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including emergency contraception such as Plan B and intrauterine devices.
Citing another right-wing talking point about contraception, Rodgers said that H.R. 8373 "will continue President Biden's war on religious liberty and conscience protections. Where is the respect for the Little Sisters of the Poor and their victory for their constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom?"
House Democrats earlier passed bills that would codify the right of same-sex couples to marry and of people to obtain abortions in the United States, both rights that have been threatened or eliminated with the reversal of Roe.
On Tuesday, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, with 157 Republicans voting no.
On July 15, the House passed two bills that would codify the right to obtain an abortion and the right to travel across state lines to obtain one. The first, the Women's Health Protection Act, bill passed by a vote of 219-210, with just all Republicans and Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas voting against it. The second, the Ensuring Women's Right to Reproductive Freedom Act, passed by a vote of 223-205, with three Republicans joining all Democrats to vote in favor.
The House bills would need 10 Republicans to join all Democrats in voting for them in order for them to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass in the Senate.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.