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Senate Republicans Block Bill Aimed to Protect Federal Access to Contraception

By Selena Richards | Posted on June 6, 2024

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images via Axios

Photo Source: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images via Axios

Senate Republicans blocked a significant piece of legislation on Wednesday (June 8th), aimed at safeguarding women's access to contraception nationwide. The bill, known as the Right to Contraception Act, was designed by Democrats to ensure federal protections for individuals seeking to purchase and use contraceptives, as well as for healthcare providers to offer them. Despite winning a majority vote of 51-39, the legislation fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.

The vote on Wednesday showcased a stark partisan divide, with most Republicans dismissing the bill as a political maneuver lacking in substance. They contended that the proposed bill failed to include adequate provisions for religious liberty exemptions, raising concerns among conservatives about potential infringements on conscience rights. Additionally, some Republicans questioned the necessity of the bill, emphasizing that contraception remains readily available and legal, rendering federal intervention unnecessary in their view.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, both known for their moderate stances, joined ranks with their Democratic counterparts in supporting the bill. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer strategically changed his vote to "no," preserving the option for Democrats to reintroduce the bill in the future.

The failure of the Right to Contraception Act to move forward represents broader tensions within the Senate, as Democrats strategically spotlight reproductive rights as a central issue to emphasize their significance in safeguarding fundamental liberties ahead of the upcoming elections. With the recent two year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade looming, Democrats are keen to highlight the far-reaching consequences of reproductive health decisions beyond abortion alone.

In response to the Senate's deadlock, Democratic lawmakers have introduced a comprehensive legislative package aimed at establishing a nationwide protection to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) access. This initiative comes on the heels of a controversial Alabama Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, which classified the destruction of embryos as "wrongful deaths" due to the embryos being considered “children” under state law. Democrats argue that such actions reflect the ongoing threats to reproductive healthcare across the country, prompting their concerted efforts to enact protective measures at the federal level. The package is expected to be voted on as soon as the upcoming week.

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