Congresswomen Williams, Manning and Senator Markey Announce Legislation to Codify Right to Contraception, Safeguard 60 Years of Settled Precedent

WASHINGTONCongresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) Vice Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, Representatives Kathy Manning (NC-06), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Angie Craig (MN-02), and Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced the reintroduction of the Right to Contraception Act, legislation that would codify and strengthen the right to contraception, which the Supreme Court first recognized more than half a century ago in its Griswold v. Connecticut decision. Enshrining the right to contraception into federal law would reverse steps already taken by Republicans in states across the country to restrict access to contraceptives and ensure that any future attempt by the far-right majority on the Supreme Court to overturn Griswold would not endanger access to this essential health care. 

The lawmakers first introduced the legislation last July in the wake of Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which overturned Roe v. Wade and overturned the Constitutional right to an abortion. In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas urged the Court to “reconsider” its substantive due process precedents, including Griswold.

Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05), Vice Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus said:  

“Millions of people use contraception every day to protect their health, the health of others, or help with medical conditions. I’m one of them–I’ve used contraception as a treatment for my struggle with endometriosis. We shouldn’t have to fight to keep our right to this essential healthcare, but we are living in a time where an extremist Supreme Court wants to undo decades of progress. That means it is up to Congress to act and protect the rights we previously believed were protected—including access to contraception. I am proud to introduce the Right to Contraception Act because healthcare must be accessible to everyone.”

“Birth control is key to ensuring that women are in control of their own health, bodies, and futures. The Right to Contraception Act safeguards Americans’ ability to obtain this essential reproductive health care, without political interference,” said Congresswoman Kathy Manning. “Last year, this critical legislation passed the House with bipartisan support and ninety percent of Americans agree: Americans should have the right to access all forms of FDA-approved birth control. I’m proud to lead this legislation and I will continue fighting to ensure that extreme state legislatures and radical justices cannot strip Americans of their access to birth control.” 

“Thankfully, I’ve been able to exercise my right to contraception – from birth control pills to Plan B to an IUD – for decades. But now, the Supreme Court and right-wing Republicans are coming after our reproductive rights, including our right to contraception. As we soon recognize the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision that tore down our constitutional right to abortion, now is the time to pass the Right to Contraception Act to codify access to birth control and ensure that all individuals can make their own decisions about if and when to grow a family without political interference,” said Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-51).

“The idea that we have to introduce a bill to protect birth control access in 2023 is shocking and disappointing – but the Radical Right has given us no choice. I will always stand up for our fundamental rights and freedoms, and that’s why I’m pushing to pass the Right to Contraception Act,” said Congresswoman Angie Craig (MN-02).

“The right to contraception is the right to essential health care, yet extremist judges and radical Republicans continue to threaten access for millions of Americans. We cannot stand by as extremists continue to undo decades of precedent and progress,” said Senator Edward J. Markey.  “Extremist Republicans need to get out of the waiting room and start representing what the vast majority of Americans want: to let health care providers and patients make decisions about what is best for themselves. Contraception access shouldn’t be controversial, and Congress must use this moment to demonstrate clearly that we will act to protect people’s health. I will continue to fight to guarantee the right to contraception into law so that not even the radical-right majority on the Supreme Court can strip it away.”  

Although nine out of 10 American adults support access to all forms of birth control, several states restrict access to contraceptives by eliminating or restricting public funding for it, defining abortion broadly enough to include emergency contraceptives and IUDs, and allowing health care providers to deny services related to contraception on the basis of their own beliefs. Attacks on health care, especially reproductive health care, fall hardest on Black, Brown, Indigenous and immigrant communities, as well as LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, low-income people, and those living in rural and underserved areas.

Specifically, the Right to Contraception Act would uphold access to contraception by:

1. Guaranteeing the legal right for individuals to get and use contraception and for health care providers to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information, referrals, and services related to contraception;

2. Prohibiting the federal government or any state from administering, implementing, or enforcing any law, rule, regulation, standard or other provision that would prohibit or restrict the sale, provision, or use of contraception; and 

3. Allowing the Department of Justice (DOJ), providers, and individuals harmed by restrictions on contraception access made unlawful under the legislation, to go to court to enforce these rights.

In the House, the bill is cosponsored by 117 members. More than half of the Senate Democratic caucus backs the Right to Contraception Act.

The Right to Contraception Act is endorsed by Advocates for Youth, AIDS United, American Atheists, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Americans for Contraception, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Catholics for Choice, Center for American Progress, Center for Biological Diversity, CenterLink: The Community of LGBTQ Centers, Coalition to Expand Contraceptive Access, Contraceptive Access Initiative, Equality California, Girls Inc., Hadassah, House Pro-Choice Caucus, Ibis Reproductive Health, Interfaith Alliance, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, Minority Veterans of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Coalition of STD Directors, National Council of Jewish Women , National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, People For the American Way, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Power to Decide, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Reproductive Health Access Project, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, The Collaborative, and Upstream USA. 

“The mounting attacks on birth control make clear that the anti-abortion movement’s agenda has never been limited to banning abortion. There’s no time to waste: We must act now to protect it. We are so grateful to Senators Markey, Hirono, and Duckworth, as well as Representatives Manning, Jacobs, Williams, and Craig for their leadership, and we look forward to continued collaboration to send this bill to President Biden’s desk,” said Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“As a practicing OBGYN, I see firsthand that the right to birth control is essential for the well-being of my patients, their families and their communities. Roughly 19 million women in need of publicly funded family planning currently live in contraceptive deserts — counties where they lack reasonable access to a health center offering the full range of contraceptive methods. We urge Congress to pass the Right to Contraception Act so that every person has the power to decide their reproductive future,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, CEO of Power to Decide.

“Catholics for Choice applauds the introduction of the Right to Contraception Act because we believe that the ability of each person to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions is a fundamental right, a matter of basic human dignity, and an advancement of the Catholic social justice imperative to care for the marginalized,” said Jamie L. Manson, M.Div., President of Catholics for Choice. “Birth control is a lifeline that allows people to plan and provide for their families, manage health conditions, achieve their educational and employment goals, and thrive in their communities. This is why, despite the Catholic hierarchy’s obstinate opposition to contraception, 98% of the sexually active women in their pews have used it. We thank Senators Markey, Hirono, and Duckworth and Representatives Manning, Jacobs, Williams, and Craig for introducing the Right to Contraception Act and we call on Congress to pass it without delay to ensure equitable access to birth control across the country.”

Last year, the Right to Contraception Act passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 228-195. Senator Markey later sought unanimous consent to pass the Right to Contraception Act, but an anti-choice Republican blocked it in the Senate.

Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District on the exclusive Financial Services Committee. She is a champion of voting rights and builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement as co-chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. Congresswoman Williams is committed to closing the racial wealth gap and ensuring everyone can share in the promise of America–no matter your ZIP code or bank account.

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