The House on Thursday passed a bill to protect access to contraception after the Supreme Court indicated the decision on the right to use contraception could be in jeopardy.
The vote was 228 to 195, with two Republican members voting “present.” Eight Republicans joined all Democratic members in voting for passage.
The Right to Contraception Act, introduced by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C. 6th District), allows Americans to obtain and use contraceptives and protects the ability of healthcare providers to give their patients contraceptives and any relevant information they might need.
The bill aims to protect contraceptives already approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including oral and emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and condoms.
"We are not willing to play defense on this critically important issue. We are playing offense," Manning said on Wednesday at a press conference to promote her bill.
The vote comes just days after the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the controversial Defense of Marriage Act and require federal recognition for same-sex and interracial marriages.
That legislation passed 267-157, with 47 Republicans joining all Democratic members in voting for passage, a much larger number than the eight who crossed the aisle to vote for the Right to Contraception Act.
These legislative measures come after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the court's staunchest conservatives, wrote in a concurring opinion that the court should reconsider cases that established other rights.
"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell," Thomas wrote, referring to cases that established the right of married couples to use contraception and the rights of LGBTQ+ people to engage in consensual sexual activity and get married. "Because any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous,' we have a duty to 'correct the error' established in those precedents."
Democrats’ aim with this legislation is to preemptively protect access to contraception ahead of potential future decisions from the conservative Supreme Court majority and efforts from Republican lawmakers at the state and federal level to restrict access.
Democrats also want to force Republican members in tough districts to go on the record with high-profile votes ahead of the November midterm elections, which could put Republicans back in the majority in Congress.
“As some of our colleagues have said, we want to put the Republicans on record, but we’d like to put them on record in support of contraception,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif., 12th District) said Wednesday.
Much like marriage equality, Democrats have characterized Republicans as extreme and out-of-step on the issue of contraception.
“Who are these people who are saying they want to outlaw it? It’s about control. They don’t like birth control, but they want to control women, and we cannot let that happen,” Pelosi said.
"Quite frankly, I'm appalled that we have to vote on this damn bill at all,” Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn. 2nd District) said. “This is not an extremist issue. This is an extremist GOP."
Like the Respect for Marriage Act, its path forward in the Senate is unclear.
The legislation will have to clear a threshold of 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster, meaning 10 Republican senators will have to join all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the bill. Much like the bill protecting same-sex marriage, most Republicans in the Senate will likely oppose the contraception bill.
Updated on July 21, 2022, at 12:11 p.m. ET with the bill's passage.