Senate Democrats on Wednesday swiftly rebuked their GOP colleagues shortly after Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) objected to Democrats’ unanimous consent request to pass the Right to Contraception Act.
Sen. Pat Murray (D-WA) called the objection — which Ernst brought within seconds of Democrats submitting their request — a sign that Republicans are “trying to distract from their extreme position” on the right to contraceptive care.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked his GOP colleagues to not object to Democrats’ request to pass via unanimous consent a bill ensuring access to contraception. The bill passed in the House last week and serves as a response to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling last month, which overturned Roe and with it the constitutional right to an abortion.
In his concurring opinion, Thomas blatantly advised the high court to revisit other landmark privacy-rights cases such as protections for same-sex marriage and contraception access.
Markey said that if any Republicans object to their unanimous consent request, their position “will be clear to everyone.”
Ernst swiftly stepped in to object to the request, calling the bill “insidious” and arguing that it “purposefully goes far beyond the scope of contraception.” In her spin, Ernst argued the bill includes provisions that could provide funding for abortion providers, could expand access to abortion-inducing drugs and would force providers to administer contraceptives despite their moral or religious beliefs.
Ernst went on to push her own bill, which she claimed would incentivize manufacturers of contraceptive to file an application for over-the-counter access for routine use of birth control.
“That means cheaper, quicker and more available access for women across this nation,” Ernst said, referring to her bill that counters the Right to Contraception Act.
After Ernst asked for unanimous consent for immediate consideration, Markey quickly objected.
Markey said Ernst’s bill would do anything but ensure access to contraceptives and falls short of codifying the right to it into law. Markey pointed out that in practice, Ernst’s bill would restrict birth control access to individuals under the age of 18 requiring a prescription, even if the FDA were to approve an over-the-counter option.
“And we cannot lose sight of the fact that this bill does nothing to address the reality that for many women, true access means being able to afford birth control as well,” Markey said, adding that Ernst’s bill would not prevent states from restricting or banning access to contraceptives either.
Markey then said Ernst’s objection makes Republicans’ position on access to contraceptives “crystal clear.”
“No abortion but no birth control to prevent the need for one,” Markey said. “Republicans have just shown the American people where they stand on their right to contraception while Republicans won’t protect our fundamental rights as the Supreme Court and right-wing state legislatures take them away.”
Murray echoed Markey’s sentiment, saying that Republican efforts to block passage of the Right to Contraception Act shows that are trying to “deny reality.” Murray pointed to Republicans who previously dismissed the notion that Roe v. Wade would be overturned before the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs, despite the conservative-majority in the high court.
“So many of the arguments we have seen from Republicans don’t add up,” Murray said. “They’re trying to distract from their extreme position. We won’t let them.”
“This bill is incredibly straightforward, so you simply cannot say you support the right to birth control and then block this bill,” Murray continued.
The exchange on the Senate floor comes a day after Democratic senators called on their GOP colleagues to go on the record about whether they support the right to contraception.
“We need to put every single Republican on the record on whether they support the right to contraception and, indeed, the right to bodily autonomy,” Hirono said.
Earlier this month, the House voted 228-195 to codify federal protections for contraception access into law, with just eight Republicans joining Democrats on the issue. The majority of Americans support access to contraception access, with 92 percent of participants in a Gallup poll published in May indicating they view contraception as “morally acceptable.”
In the wake of Roe’s overturning Democrats have pushed the passage of bills that would codify contraception and same-sex marriage rights into law. While both bills passed the Democratic-controlled House with Republican support, their fate is uncertain in a 50-50 Senate as Senate Republicans avoid going on the record on both issues.
Watch the exchange between Ernst and Senate Democrats below: