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These 38 GOP senators just voted against protecting contraception. Here's why.

Bryan Metzger   

These 38 GOP senators just voted against protecting contraception. Here's why.
  • All but 2 GOP senators voted to block a Democratic bill to protect access to contraception.
  • Republicans say they're not actually against contraception but have other issues with the bill.

The Senate failed on Wednesday to advance a bill designed to protect access to contraceptives nationwide.

Just two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted with Democrats to advance the bill. Nine Republicans did not show up to vote.

The vote was teed up by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as part of an effort to highlight the different between the Democratic and Republican parties over reproductive rights ahead of an election where abortion is expected to play a major role.

Republicans derided the effort as a "show vote," arguing that no one is seriously interested in banning contraceptives such as condoms, Plan-B, or IUDs.

"Do people really think that even a significant minority of the Republican conference is against access to contraception?" said Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. "I don't even want to get into what I don't like about the bill."

It's true that the effort is largely for show — Schumer and Democrats knew that the GOP-controlled House would not take up the legislation. To that point, the bill's "findings" section argues that access for contraception is "especially critical for historically marginalized groups" including "Black, indigenous, and other people of color," "immigrants," and "LGBTQ+ people."

While not necessarily untrue, it's not the sort of thing one would put in legislation designed to attract the support of conservative Republicans.

"It's a bill that has a lot of other garbage in it, and this is a messaging exercise," said Tillis.

But still — if Republicans aren't against contraception, why won't they just vote for the bill?

If you ask them, it mainly comes down to religious freedom.

'The number one issue with it'

The Democratic bill is designed to guarantee the right to access contraception, which was first established for married couples by the Supreme Court in its 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling.

Some experts have since worried that right could now be at risk in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. In his concurring opinion in that case, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Griswold should be revisited.

But the bill includes a line stating that it "applies notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993."

That law essentially protects individuals' right to religious freedoms. Republicans argue waiving that law amounts to a "poison pill" in the bill that would force religious institutions to provide contraceptives.

"They've said basically, contraception is gonna be allowed everywhere, regardless of your faith, your background, your institution," said Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. "That's the number one issue with it."

Like other Republicans, Lankford is also opposed to certain forms of medical care for transgender youth. The bill includes "sterilization" under its definition of contraception, which the Oklahoma Republican argued would interfere with state-level bans on gender-affirmed care for people under 18.

"This would remove that right from all those states to say they're protecting minors," said Lankford.

22 GOP senators, led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, signed a statement on Tuesday, declaring that there's "no threat to access to contraception" and that the bill "infringes on the parental rights and religious liberties of some Americans."

Democrats have also attempted to pass similar legislation at the state level, but have been blocked by Republicans. Last month, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia vetoed a bill to protect access to contraception, arguing that it violated principles of religious freedom.

The Republicans who voted to block the bill

Here are the 38 GOP senators who voted to block the Right to Contraception Act:

  • John Barrasso of Wyoming
  • Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee
  • John Boozman of Arkansas
  • Ted Budd of North Carolina
  • Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia
  • Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
  • John Cornyn of Texas
  • Tom Cotton of Arkansas
  • Kevin Cramer of North Dakota
  • Mike Crapo of Idaho
  • Ted Cruz of Texas
  • Steve Daines of Montana
  • Joni Ernst of Iowa
  • Deb Fischer of Nebraska
  • Chuck Grassley of Iowa
  • Josh Hawley of Missouri
  • John Hoeven of North Dakota
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi
  • Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
  • James Lankford of Oklahoma
  • Mike Lee of Utah
  • Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming
  • Roger Marshall of Kansas
  • Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
  • Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma
  • Rand Paul of Kentucky
  • Pete Ricketts of Nebraska
  • Jim Risch of Idaho
  • Mike Rounds of South Dakota
  • Marco Rubio of Florida
  • Eric Schmitt of Missouri
  • Rick Scott of Florida
  • Tim Scott of South Carolina
  • John Thune of South Dakota
  • Thoms Tillis of North Carolina
  • Tommy Tuberville of Alabama
  • Roger Wicker of Mississippi
  • Todd Young of Indiana

The following 9 GOP senators did not vote:

  • Mike Braun of Indiana
  • Katie Britt of Alabama
  • Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • Bill Hagerty of Tennessee
  • John Kennedy of Louisiana
  • Jerry Moran of Kansas
  • Mitt Romney of Utah
  • Dan Sullivan of Alaska
  • JD Vance of Ohio

Correction: June 5, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated which stated Ted Budd represents. He represents North Carolina, not Indiana.

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