In a 228-195 vote, the House voted Thursday morning to enshrine federal protection of access to contraceptives without government restrictions into law, with just eight Republicans voting “yes” and two cowardly Republicans voting “present.” Yes, 195 lawmakers believe that the federal government should not guarantee that Americans have the basic right to plan their families. Put another way, 195 Republicans believe that a state government should be able to deny you that right.
One. Hundred. And. Ninety. Five.
That needs to be shouted out repeatedly. And the vote needs to be held in the Senate, were we can see again that Republicans think they need to be smack dab in the middle of controlling your private life.
The Right to Contraception Act (a very good read, by the way) would statutorily protect access to and use of contraceptives, as well as health care providers’ right to provide contraception and information about how to use it. It would allow the Justice Department as well as individuals and entities harmed by state restriction to birth control access and provision to seek enforcement of those rights in court.
“The right to contraception is a fundamental right, central to a person’s privacy, health, wellbeing, dignity, liberty, equality, and ability to participate in the social and economic life of the nation,” the lawmakers state in the findings section of the bill, pointing out that the “Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the constitutional right to contraception.” They also point out that Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurrence in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning abortion rights, wrote that the court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell” and that the court has “a duty to correct the error established in those precedents” by overruling them.
“The right to make personal decisions about contraceptive use is important for all Americans,
and is especially critical for historically marginalized groups, including Black, indigenous, and other people of color; immigrants; LGBTQ people; people with disabilities; people with low incomes; and people living in rural and underserved areas,” the legislation states. “Many people who are part of these marginalized groups already face barriers—exacerbated by social, political, economic, and environmental inequities—to comprehensive health care, including reproductive health care, that reduce their ability to make decisions about their health, families, and lives.”
Which are all of the reasons why Republicans voted against affirming this right: These are all the people they want to punish, down to what happens in their bedrooms. If they can force them to be pregnant and to secure the “domestic supply of infants,” as Justice Samuel Alito so terrifyingly described their intent, so much the better.
Senate Democrats have to make their Republicans counterparts vote on this. Those Republicans are already tying themselves up in knots trying to justify why they think the state should be getting in bed with all of us.
“I don’t know that we need to codify things like that. Shouldn’t that be states and local jurisdictions, maybe?” Republican Joni Ernst recently told NBC News, adding, “I would just have to see how it’s worded. But, no, I think women should have access to contraception. But it depends on the definition of contraception.”
They need to be forced to explain why they don’t think we should be able to use whatever birth control is safe and effective for us. They also need to be forced to explain why they think it’s just about women, when there are an awfully lot of sexually active men out there with partners who could become pregnant, and they probably like being able to do something to prevent that, too. Make them have those conversations, too.
If that means the Senate doesn’t get to have the whole of August recess off in order to get this done, fine. It’s far more important that Democrats show the country that they will not let the country slide even further into a dystopia that we all hoped would remain the stuff of fiction.