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Opinion | Republican war on women seen in contraception vote

Opinion | Republican war on women seen in contraception vote
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For decades, the forced-birth crowd pooh-poohed pro-choice activists’ warnings that partisan right-wing judges were out to gut Roe v. Wade. “Hysterical!” “Fearmongering!” Then the six-person radical majority shredded nearly 50 years of precedent to deprive women of bodily autonomy. The right responded, “Leave it to the states, they’ll be reasonable!” What followed were a series of inhumane, unworkable and dangerous abortion bans that have threatened women’s lives, created a shortage of doctors and sparked legal chaos and endless litigation.

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Next, Democrats warned that Republicans were after IVF. “Absurd!” Well, Republicans in Congress voted against protection for IVF. Alabama effectively banned it before a backlash forced a reversal.

By now, you would think Democrats’ warnings that Republicans are coming after reproductive rights, including contraception, would be heeded. But, predictably, Republicans cry foul and deny any thought of snatching away contraception access. Ah, but along came felon and former president Donald Trump who let slip he was “looking at” contraception restrictions; then he backpedaled once he realized too much candor was politically disastrous.

And — no surprise — Republicans again showed their stripes last week. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer taunted Republicans before calling for a vote on bill offering national protection for contraception. “This week and in future weeks, Senate Republicans will have to answer for their antiabortion, anti-women agenda,” he said. “And my Republican colleagues should know that the American people are closely watching.”

The bill was straightforward. “The Democratic bill — intended to put Republicans on the spot in an election year on their unpopular positions on reproductive rights — would have prevented states from passing laws that limit access to contraception, including hormonal birth control and intrauterine devices,” The Post reported. Nine Republicans ducked the vote; all other male Republicans voted against it. Two female Republicans and all Democrats present voted for it. (Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey on trial for bribery, obstruction of justice, acting as a foreign agent and honest services wire fraud missed the vote.)

Ahead of the vote, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) underscored the significance of the moment. “What message do we want to send our constituents? That we support their right to birth control? That we support access to IUDs, to Plan B? Or that we are okay taking that right away, and letting politicians make medical decisions for women in this country,” she said. “I know where I stand — with the overwhelming majority of people who support that right. And soon we will know exactly where every Republican senator stands, too.”

Republicans, authors of a nonstop stream of legislative stunts that have no prayer of passage, hollered it was a “stunt.” It was just about getting out the Democrats’ message, they scoffed. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of only two Republians to vote for the bill, in a video replied that if it is a “messaging” bill, that “I want my message to be very clear — a woman has a right to contraception.” Her fellow Republicans’ voting no obviously did not.

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Republicans’ rationale for opposing the measure was confused and contradictory. They said it was “unnecessary,” although they had loudly cheered Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ripped away the underpinning for any substantive due process right regarding reproductive rights.

And it wasn’t a stunt. “Democrats pointed to Republican opposition to contraception legislation — including GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia vetoing a similar bill last month — as evidence that the effort was necessary,” The Post reported. “Some Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma also pushed legislation that could have outlawed intrauterine devices, and some Republicans oppose the ‘morning-after pill’ that helps prevent pregnancies.” Federal conception protection seems rather important, that is, if you want to protect contraception.

In truth, Republicans are coming after all of it. That’s what the so-called fetal personhood bill is all about. The upshot of state measures to protect “fetal personhood” is that not only IVF but many forms of contraception would be at risk because they protect a fertilized egg at any stage. (“Anti-abortion advocates have deliberately and effectively sown misinformation to create disagreement on what constitutes abortion by claiming, despite all medical evidence to the contrary, that some forms of contraception are abortifacients,” pro-choice advocacy groups explain. With ambiguous personhood laws, “we have seen again and again that rogue, aggressive prosecutors can stretch the bounds of law to police” reproductive freedom.)

Senate and House Republicans, like clockwork, routinely introduce “life begins at conception” bills. The House bill has drawn 130 co-sponsors. The Republican Study Committee is on record this year as supporting both a fetal personhood bill and a ban on mifepristone (used to treat miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies).

In other words, protection for access to contraception is necessary when the MAGA-celebrated Dobbs decision effectively removes federal protection and Republicans at both the state and federal level aim at “fetal personhood” bills that would outlaw abortion, IVF and some forms of contraception.

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Voters have every reason to fear a GOP-held Congress would pass nationwide abortion ban and “fetal personhood” measures. They know that is true because Republicans continue to press these measures and simultaneously vote to block measures to protect IVF and contraception. And no one seriously believes that if elected on the strength of white Christian evangelicals’ support that Trump would veto such bills.



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