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Birth-Control Access Bill Passed by House

The Wall Street Journal 7/21/2022 Natalie Andrews, Eliza Collins
© Win McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—The House on Thursday passed a bill that would protect access to contraception on a federal level, as Democratic lawmakers say they fear the recent Supreme Court ruling ending the constitutional right to an abortion could endanger other protections.

The bill passed 228-195, with eight Republicans siding with Democrats, while two Republicans voted present. It follows another piece of legislation that passed this week to protect same-sex and interracial marriage, in which about four dozen Republicans joined Democrats in support.

Democrats are seen as the underdogs in November’s midterm elections in the House, and they have been rolling out a series of votes related to privacy rights. Many Republicans have accused Democrats of playing politics by setting up votes on rights that aren’t in danger and crafting bill text that GOP lawmakers can’t accept due to concerns about abortion or other issues.

“Should we have a session on the birds and the bees?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday about her response to Republicans who opposed the contraception bill. “You don’t want birth control, but you want control of women.”

The legislation protects access to any contraceptive device, including all contraceptive products approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including intrauterine devices known as IUDs and emergency contraception such as Plan B.

GOP lawmakers who opposed the contraceptives bill said it could open the door to broader abortion access or potentially force medical workers to provide contraception even if it goes against their religious beliefs.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R., Iowa), a physician, said the legislation “eliminates conscience protection laws and singles out that all providers would be required to administer contraceptives despite their moral or religious beliefs” because the bill lacks language protecting physicians. Democrats say the bill forces the government, not individual providers, to enforce the right to contraceptives.

Ms. Miller-Meeks, along with GOP Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Ashley Hinson of Iowa, on Wednesday introduced legislation to improve access to over-the-counter birth-control pills that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“I have and will continue to support women through increased access to healthcare resources like these,” said Ms. Mace, who voted for the Democrats’ bill. She showed up at votes with tape on the back of her jacket that read: “My state is banning exceptions, protect contraception.”

Ms. Mace, who said she is against abortion except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother, said access to emergency contraceptives was especially important in states that had banned abortion.

A Democrat-led effort in the Senate to pass a similar contraception bill by unanimous consent failed Thursday afternoon, when Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) objected. Senate Democrats haven’t announced a plan to hold a floor vote. The legislation, along with the same-sex marriage bill, would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to advance in the evenly divided Senate.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, 2017-2019, about 65% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 in the U.S. were using contraception. Gallup public-opinion polls show access to contraceptives is backed by more than 9 in 10 Americans.

In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the U.S. Constitution protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction, overturning a Connecticut law that banned birth control. A later ruling guaranteed access to all people regardless of marital status.

Some conservative state legislatures have discussed contraception access in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. Idaho state Rep. Brent Crane—the Republican chair of the House State Affairs Committee, which oversees abortion laws in the state—told local reporters he would like to discuss banning emergency contraceptives.

A Louisiana House committee earlier this month passed a bill that said “human personhood” begins at the point of fertilization, which abortion-rights advocates like Mrs. Pelosi say could be used to ban intrauterine devices and emergency contraception. The state’s Democratic governor said he would veto the bill should it pass.

In a concurring opinion last month when the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that if the legal underpinnings of Roe were wrong, then so were the underpinnings of other rights not enumerated in the Constitution that the court recognized in recent decades, such as the right to same-sex marriage and contraception.

Write to Natalie Andrews at and Eliza Collins at

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