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Senate blocks Right to Contraception Act due to partisan divide

After failure to advance the Right to Contraception Act, Democrats will place reproductive rights in the forefront before the election.

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The U.S. Senate underwent a vote Wednesday to advance the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify Americans’ right to access birth control in all its forms, condoms, sterilization procedures and intrauterine devices. 

The vote fell nine members short of passing with the procedural 60 votes to advance. All Republican senators, except for two, opposed or did not vote.

Alabama U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville voted to oppose and Alabama U.S. Sen. Katie Britt chose not to vote, despite claims the previous day that she supports nationwide access to contraception.

The legislation would have also effectively prevented any state from passing laws restricting the distribution of these products and services and would not eliminate any religious or personal belief exemptions regarding health care providers or insurance companies prescribing and covering the products.

The bill was pushed by Democrats for a vote to put Republicans on the record as to where they stand on this reproductive issue ahead of the election, after stalling the bill for two years once it passed in the House. An IVF package was put together by a group of Senate Democrats earlier this week to push more conversation about reproductive rights across the aisle.

“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,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer before the vote took place.

Schumer voted to oppose so he could put the bill up for a vote again in the future, but he hoped it would be an “easy, uncontroversial decision.”

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Some conservative lawmakers have attempted to frame intrauterine devices and emergency birth control pills as abortion-inducing products. Nearby states, Louisiana and Arkansas, have already discussed or pushed legislation to restrict contraception like IUDs.

Senate Republicans maintain their position that contraception is not at risk in the U.S. and that pushing the bill to a vote only serves as fearmongering.

Unless one of the landmark Supreme Court cases is overturned, access to contraception remains protected. This week will mark 59 years since the turning point contraception case, Griswold v. Connecticut, where the Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutionally invading the privacy of married couples. 

A brief seven years later, this ruling extended access to contraceptives to all Americans. Contraceptives are an important for promoting reproductive autonomy, specifically in a state with a total abortion ban. 

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention report found that nearly 57 percent of Alabama women aged 18-49 years had ongoing or potential need for contraceptive services. That year, statistics for women with needs for contraceptives in other states of the same age range were anywhere from 50 percent to 73 percent.

Mary Claire is a reporting intern.

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