Senate Republicans block bill that would federally protect right to contraception

Image Wikimedia Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States

On Wednesday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) prevented the passage of legislation that would have established a legal right to use birth control through unanimous consent. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) proposed the Right to Contraception Act, which would have given federal law protection to “a person’s freedom to obtain contraceptives and… a health care provider’s ability to deliver contraceptives.”

Only eight Republican House members voted in favor of the bill. The GOP’s party line is that the bill is unnecessary and that there is no danger of the Supreme Court overturning the right to contraception.

Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa called the bill “insidious,” claiming it used an overly broad definition of contraception and could fund abortion providers and “abortion-inducing drugs.”

Justice Clarence Thomas specifically called for reexamination of Griswold and other Supreme Court precedent that established privacy rights in a concurring opinion about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to an abortion last month.

Thomas, a Black justice whose current wife is white, did not mention the Supreme Court’s interracial marriage case, Loving v. Virginia, but instead singled out other substantive due process rights, such as marriage equality established in Obergefell v. Hodges and the right to sexual relations established in Lawrence v. Texas. Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,”. “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

Another legislation prompted by Thomas’ concurrence is a bill passed by the House last week to codify the freedom to marry into federal law.

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