gop senator blocks bill that would codify right to birth control

Democratic legislation that would protect the right to birth control and other contraceptives was blocked by Senate Republicans on Wednesday, a little more than a month after the Supreme Court reversed nearly 50 years of precedent and overturned abortion rights.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) objected to a request to pass the bill via unanimous consent. If any senator opposes such a request on the Senate floor, it is rejected.

Ernst claimed the Democrats’ bill “purposefully goes far beyond the scope of contraception” and said it could fund abortion providers and protect abortion-inducing drugs.

The House passed the Right to Contraception Act last week amid fears that the high court may come for reproductive health care next. Democrats pointed to an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting the court should reexamine precedent that guaranteed the right to contraception.

The legislation would create a statutory right for people to obtain and use contraceptives, as well as codifying protections for physicians who provide them.

In the House, 195 Republicans opposed the measure.

Ernst on Wednesday sought to pass her own bill that would expedite over-the-counter access to birth control. Democrats objected, saying it wouldn’t prevent states from restricting or even banning access to birth control.

“Her bill would not ensure access to birth control, and it fails to codify the constitutional right to birth control across the United States,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said.

The right to buy and use contraceptives is currently protected by the 1965 landmark Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.

But Republicans who downplayed the threat to the 1973 abortion decision before the Supreme Court struck it down are similarly dismissing the threat to other rights, like contraception and same-sex marriage.

Some state legislatures have introduced bills to restrict access to contraceptives, though they have not passed.

It’s unclear whether the bill protecting contraception will get a vote on the Senate floor amid the busy calendar, with many other competing priorities on the Democrats’ agenda.

A bill protecting same-sex marriages has picked up steam in the Senate with several GOP endorsements, but it doesn’t yet have enough GOP votes to break a filibuster, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

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