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Barbara Lee
“To deny contraception is outrageous,” Rep. Barbara Lee told NOTUS. Damian Dovarganes/AP

House Democrats Are Going on the Offensive on Birth Control

Democrats will introduce a discharge petition to try and force a House vote on a bill that would create a national right to access birth control. “Anything that we can do to protect women’s reproductive rights, I think is a good idea,” one lawmaker told NOTUS.

House Democrats want to force a vote on a bill that would create a national right to access birth control — and some Republicans say they haven’t ruled out supporting the move.

The discharge petition, which is expected to be announced Tuesday afternoon, comes the week that Senate Democrats have scheduled a largely symbolic vote on the same bill, the Right to Contraception Act. Democrats hope to highlight Republicans’ record of opposing measures to expand access to reproductive health after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The New York Times first reported the plan.

“It’s very important that we introduce a discharge petition,” Rep. Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, told NOTUS. “Democrats in both chambers understand that it’s a personal decision and that no government official, no judge, no outside entity, no one other than that individual’s health care provider and that individual should make those decisions. It’s a fundamental right.”

Rep. Kathy Manning, who introduced the bill in the House, told NOTUS on Monday that “anything that we can do to protect women’s reproductive rights, I think is a good idea, particularly in this moment in time when they’re under so many attacks.”

A discharge petition needs a simple majority of backers in the House, 218 signatures, to force a vote. Democrats hope they can convince House Republicans in vulnerable districts to support the petition to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. The bill passed the House in 2022 with support from eight Republicans, but it stalled in the Senate. While not all of the Republicans who backed the bill in 2022 are still in the House, some members in vulnerable districts are already signaling interest.

Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican in a Biden-won district, said the discharge petition was “of interest” to his constituents.

“I think it’s pretty important that we ensure women, everyone has access,” he told reporters. “I wouldn’t say I’m decided at the moment, but it’s certainly a tool to use.”

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Two other New York Republicans, Reps. Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito, said that they haven’t ruled out supporting the Democratic-led petition.

Similarly, Rep. Jen Kiggans, whose district is being targeted by Democrats, said she had yet to make a final decision on whether to support the petition but that she believes “we need to increase the accessibility to contraception.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, who backed the bill in 2022, told NOTUS she wants to “look at the language” before deciding but noted her previous support for the legislation and added that she supports contraception.

The legislation was first introduced following Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion in the Dobbs decision suggesting that the court should reconsider landmark cases like those that guaranteed contraceptive access and marriage equality. Some health experts and advocates have also warned that state abortion bans could be interpreted to limit certain forms of birth control.

“To deny contraception is outrageous,” Lee told NOTUS. “Republican women and Republican constituents deserve that right, just like Democratic constituents and Democratic women.”

It would mark the second reproductive rights-related discharge petition filed by Democrats this session. Rep. Diana DeGette, the other co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, introduced one for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify abortion access until viability into law, but it has not met the necessary threshold.

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.