Democratic contraception access bill fails in US Senate

WASHINGTON — A bill to safeguard access to contraceptives failed to advance in a U.S. Senate vote on Wednesday, after congressional Democrats forced the vote in a bid to focus public attention on reproductive rights ahead of the November election. 

The Right to Contraception Act, which would protect birth control access nationwide, got 51 votes in support and 39 against, but fell short of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for advancing to a full debate. 

The fight over reproductive rights is a flashpoint in U.S. politics, especially since the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that had recognized a national right to abortion access.  

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire after comments that political rivals said suggested he would consider banning birth control, leading him to respond publicly that he would not support such a move. 

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer on Wednesday pointed to several states, including Nevada and Virginia, where Republican governors have vetoed efforts to protect legal access to contraception, saying that showed a need for federal legislation. 

“We are kidding ourselves if we think the hard right will stop at overturning Roe,” he said. 

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives said they would attempt a legislative maneuver to force a vote on the same bill, though they faced slim chance of success in the Republican-controlled chamber. 

“Republicans have a choice to make: They can put aside their MAGA ideology and join us [to] get this bill passed, or they can triple down on their anti-freedom extremism in full view of the American people,” House Democrat Katherine Clark said on Tuesday. 

Republican Representative Marc Molinaro, who won his district in 2022 by just 1.6%, said on Wednesday that he would cosponsor the legislation, the first Republican to do so. 

Some Senate Republicans criticized the push. 

“It’s an election year in which a Democratic incumbent president is running behind, so a decision has been made to raise abortion to a high profile,” said Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, referring to President Joe Biden. “You can’t normalize a procedure where the intent is to end a life.” 

In a May Reuters/Ipsos survey of 3,934 U.S. residents 18 and older, 37% said Biden has a better approach to abortion, compared to 27% who said the same about Trump. 

Schumer said Democrats would also vote on a bill next week to protect in vitro fertilization, which Senate Republicans previously voted against after an Alabama court made the fertility treatment used by millions of Americans to conceive effectively illegal in the state.