Right to Contraception Act would defend decades-long precedent, ensure access to contraceptives as rogue Supreme Court entertains rolling back fundamental rights in the wake of Dobbs decision

Washington (July 19, 2022) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) today introduced, with the backing of over half of the Senate Democratic caucus, the Right to Contraception Act, legislation that would codify the fundamental and constitutional right to contraception, which the Supreme Court first recognized more than half a century ago in its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. The introduction follows Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — overturning Roe v. Wade — in which he urged the Court to reconsider its 1965 Griswold decision. Several states have already restricted access to contraception by cutting off public funding for it, defining abortion broadly enough to include contraception, and allowing health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception based on their own personal beliefs.

“A stolen Supreme Court majority has stolen the right to abortion care, and they are just getting started,” said Senator Markey. “We cannot sit by and wait as far-right justices on the bench undo decades of precedent and progress. We have an urgent obligation to codify the right to contraception and prevent this far-right Court from committing another grave judicial act of injustice. The right to contraception is a fundamental right that is central to an individual’s privacy, health, wellbeing, and ability to participate in the social and economic life of our nation.” 

“For this far-right results-oriented Supreme Court and MAGA Republicans, controlling women’s bodies doesn’t just stop at forcing women to give birth, they actually want to ban contraception,” said Senator Hirono. “Everyone in this country needs to realize that nothing is off the table for MAGA Republican controlled state governments and this Court—and we need to act now to protect the right to contraception. We need to put every single Republican on the record on whether they support the right to contraception, or whether they will allow states and this Court to stop millions and millions of women from making decisions about their own health care.”

“I refuse to let my daughters grow up in a world with fewer rights than I had. As Republicans continue their march toward a nationwide abortion ban, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Illinois remains a safe haven for all women seeking reproductive care,” said Senator Duckworth. “It is as important as ever that the Senate acts to codify the right to contraception into law so that every American in every state has equal access to basic, necessary healthcare—regardless of their skin color, zip code or income—and I’m proud to join Senators Markey and Hirono in this effort.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. 

The Right to Contraception Act would uphold access to contraception by:

  • Creating a statutory right for individuals to obtain contraceptives and to engage in contraception;

  • Establishing a corresponding right for health care providers to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception;

  •  Allowing the Department of Justice, as well as providers and individuals harmed by restrictions on contraception access made unlawful under the legislation, to go to court to enforce these rights; and

  •  Protecting a range of contraceptive methods, devices, and medications used to prevent pregnancy, including but not limited to oral contraceptives, long-acting reversible contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, internal and external condoms, injectables, vaginal barrier methods, transdermal patches, vaginal rings, fertility-awareness based methods, and sterilization procedures.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass,), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

On July 14, Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06), joined by Congresswomen Nikema Williams (GA-05), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Angie Craig (MN-02), introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives, the Right to Contraception Act (H.R. 8373). The House will be taking it for a vote this Thursday. The White House issued a statement of support for the Right to Contraception Act on Monday.

The Right to Contraception Act is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women’s Law Center, National Organization for Women, Power to Decide, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Reproductive Health Access Project, Catholics for Choice, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Upstream USA, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Partnership for Women & Families, Jewish Women International, Positive Women’s Network-USA, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

"With Justice Thomas's concurring opinion, the far-right Supreme Court has put its game plan in plain sight: overturn Roe, then come for contraception," Rebecca Hart Holder, Executive Director, Reproductive Equity Now. "At this moment of crisis, we need to do everything in our power to protect reproductive health care, and that starts with codifying the right to contraception. Thank you to Senators Markey, Hirono, and Duckworth for leading this fight in the Senate and making it crystal clear that reproductive health care is a non-negotiable human right.”

“No amount of funding for or access to contraception will ever negate the need for abortion. However, as we face the loss of abortion access in roughly half of the states, protecting and expanding access to quality, affordable birth control has never been more critical,” Clare Coleman, President and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. “We commend Sens. Markey, Hirono, and other co-sponsors of the Right to Contraception Act for removing barriers to care so that everyone who wants or needs birth control can access it without interference. We look forward to continuing to work with our champions to protect reproductive health for all.”

“Contraception has been integral to women’s economic advancement, but as extreme abortion bans rapidly take effect across the country, MAGA extremists are also seeking to redefine and outlaw contraception. Everyone should have the ability to determine when and if to become a parent,” Daniella Gibbs Léger, Executive Vice President for Communications and Strategy, Center for American Progress. “As the health and economic consequences of the Supreme Court’s recent egregious decision to deny the right to an abortion becomes even more stark, protecting the right to contraception is all the more important.”

"The Supreme Court's outrageous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has decimated 50 years of legal precedent and callously robbed people who can get pregnant of access to essential abortion care. As a result, many related constitutional rights – including the right to contraception – now hang in the balance,” Shannon Russell, Director of Policy, Catholics for Choice. “Birth control is necessary healthcare used by 98% of Catholic women at some point in their lives to plan and support their families, manage health conditions, and achieve their educational and employment goals. Catholics for Choice is proud to support the Right to Contraception Act to safeguard the right to obtain and provide birth control and looks forward to working with Senator Markey to advance this critical legislation."

“Power to Decide is proud to stand with Senators Markey and Hirono, and the many legislative champions who are supporting the Right to Contraception Act,” Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, CEO, Power to Decide. “We share your frustration that measures like this are still so necessary, when millions of people across the country already struggle to access contraception and other basic health care they need. We urge members of Congress to take this important step to ensure everyone has the opportunity to protect their reproductive well-being, now and in the future.”

“In the wake of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision, protecting access to contraception as part of the full spectrum of reproductive rights is crucial to the health and wellbeing of all birthing people and their families,” Terrance E. Moore, CEO, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs. “Moreover, access to contraception is paramount towards achieving health equity for historically marginalized groups, including Black and Indigenous birthing individuals, who also experience disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality in comparison to their white counterparts. As a national organization representing state public health officials dedicated to improving maternal and child health, AMCHP is proud to support the Right to Contraception Act. We are grateful to Senator Markey and others in Congress for their leadership on this critical legislation to advancing reproductive justice and maternal health.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization not only overturned our constitutional right to abortion, but has put other dearly held rights at risk, including the right to contraception,” Sheila Katz, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women. “Access to contraception is critical to our ability to make our own moral and faith-informed decisions about whether and when to have a family, and lack of access most harms women, people of color, young people, and others struggling to make ends meet. National Council of Jewish Women thanks the House and the Senate for introducing and championing the Right to Contraception Act, which would help secure access to contraception for everyone who needs it. We urge Congress to pass this bill as soon as possible.”

“The Supreme Court’s devastating and illegitimate decision on abortion has unleashed chaos and emboldened those who want to come after our fundamental rights, including our right to birth control. At the National Women’s Law Center, we are hearing from people who are scared about losing the right to birth control,” Mara Gandal-Powers, Director of Birth Control Access & Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center. “And we’ve been tracking attempts by state legislators and some members of Congress to target birth control and restrict access to it or make it illegal. Everyone deserves the freedom to decide when or whether they want to grow a family, and we’re grateful to Senators Markey and Hirono and other members of Congress for introducing the Right to Contraception Act.”

“Justice Thomas’s dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization made abundantly clear that the right to access contraception is under attack. In a time when abortion is being banned in half the country, it is utterly essential that we shore up all tools young people need to make healthy decisions about pregnancy and parenting,” Kimberly Inez McGuire (she/her/ella), Executive Director, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. “As a young people’s organization committed to achieving a world where Reproductive Justice is a reality, we applaud the introduction of the Right to Contraception Act in the United States Senate.”