House Democrats will try to force a vote to protect contraception, putting GOP on record

WASHINGTON — House Democrats unveiled a new plan on Tuesday to attempt to force a vote on contraceptive protections — or at least to get Republicans in their chamber on record on the issue before November’s elections.

The petition from Democratic Minority Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and North Carolina Rep. Kathy Manning comes just one day before Senate Democrats are set to vote on legislation protecting birth control access and three weeks ahead of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe versus Wade decision, which established a right to access abortion care.

Democrats plan to spend the month of June pushing votes on a range of reproductive health matters, as they seek to highlight Republican opposition on an issue that’s likely to be among the most salient in the 2024 November elections, as it was in 2022.

House Democrats are launching this week a discharge petition, which requires 218 members — or, a majority of the chamber — to force bills to be taken up on the House floor even without the backing of the speaker and majority party. Democrats have tried to use this lever before on various topics from government funding to foreign aid to gun violence prevention, but those efforts have all fallen short of the necessary threshold.

A senior Democratic leadership aide confirmed to NBC News that the petition is “ripe”— meaning it’s sat for the required 30-plus days in committee and can now be opened up for lawmakers to sign on. Even if they fall short again on a discharge petition, Democrats plan to highlight Republicans who refuse to sign on to protect contraception, particularly moderate members up for re-election in vulnerable districts this fall. Or, in the words of another Dem leadership aide: “Does the GOP stand for freedom or extremism?”

The new discharge petition would force a vote on the Right to Contraception Act, the same legislation that the Democratic-controlled Senate will vote on Wednesday, which protects access to all FDA-approved birth control measures, including intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and birth control pills.

In a letter to colleagues Sunday previewing the week’s votes and focus, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned of “the scourge of the Republicans’ anti-reproductive rights agenda” extending to contraceptive access, too.

“We’ve seen right-wing judges, Justices and extremist Republicans calling on the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutional right to contraception and states are trying to ban access to some or all contraceptives by restricting public funding for these products and services,” he wrote, promising “Democrats will never relent until we reverse the immense damage MAGA Republicans and the Supreme Court have inflicted.”

Schumer said Tuesday that the Senate will also take up legislation to protect access to IVF “very soon,” noting the recent conservative Alabama Supreme Court’s decision that embryos are children, which he called “stunningly radical.” The decision led to national backlash and concern that access to IVF could be restricted. Alabama governor Kay Ivey later signed legislation to protect IVF but Schumer said that families are nonetheless “rightfully worried that this option could be stripped away.” Republicans blocked Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., from bringing up her legislation to protect access to IVF nationwide in February.

“In the coming weeks, Senate Democrats will put reproductive freedoms front and center before this chamber, so that the American people can see for themselves who will stand up to defend their fundamental liberties,” Schumer said.

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