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Senate Democrats to put squeeze on Republicans with vote on contraceptive access

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(NEW YORK) — The Senate is poised to vote Wednesday on legislation that would codify the right to access contraceptives nationwide, as Democrats look to put reproductive care at the front of their messaging agenda in the lead up to the November elections.

The bill, put forward by a group of Senate Democrats in the aftermath of the 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, would protect a person’s right to access contraceptives and a doctor’s right to provide information and access to them.

“This is a simple bill and a simple vote: if you believe all women deserve to have contraception then you should vote for this bill. That’s all there is to it,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech on Wednesday morning.

The Right to Contraception Act will need 60 votes to advance during a vote scheduled for late Wednesday afternoon. It’s expected to fail, largely at the hands of Senate Republicans, who are dismissing the legislation as a political ploy by Democrats and are opposing what they see as overly broad language that could be interpreted to include some abortion-related medications.

“It’s not a serious attempt to legislate this is just a show vote in anticipation of the election,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who is running to become the Senate Republican leader this fall. “Democrats think they can win this case, this election based on reproductive rights and somehow they’re suggesting that contraception is in jeopardy, which is just blatantly false.”

It is clear Democrats are looking to put the squeeze on Republicans on reproductive rights ahead of the 2024 election, after winning big on the issue in the last election cycle.

Wednesday’s vote is the first of a number of votes on reproductive rights related legislation Schumer has promised in the coming weeks.

Already, he’s teed up the chamber to take a vote next week on a bill aimed at protecting access to IVF in the aftermath of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that threw access to the procedure into jeopardy. That will also almost certainly fail at the hands of Republicans.

Twenty-two Senate Republicans said Democrats are trying to stir up commotion over a non-existent threat in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“There is no threat to access to contraception, with is legal in every state and required by law to be offered at no cost by health insurers, and it’s disgusting that Democrats are fearmongering on this important issue to score cheap political points,” they said.

The right to access birth control was enshrined in a 1965 Supreme Court ruling.

But proponents of the Right to Contraception Act say that if the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade, which granted protections for abortions, it could also act to overturn access to birth control.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to the Supreme Court decisions that overturned Roe V. Wade, said that the court “should reconsider” some of its previous decisions, including the one that assured legal access to birth control.

“Whenever a Supreme Court justice, especially in the MAGA far right, says he wants to revisit a case, you can bet that he’s looking to overturn,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said.

Schumer echoed her warning.

“A few years ago it was Roe. A few years from now it could be something else,” Schumer said in floor remarks. “We are kidding ourselves if we think the hard right is done with their attacks on reproductive rights.”

Republicans also say they’re worried that the bill includes language that could potentially violate religious freedom of providers or be interpreted to include certain kinds of drugs that some say could induce an abortion. Democrats refute that the legislation does either of those things.

Though most Republicans are expected to vote against advancing the bill, they are taking pains to assure voters they do support access to birth control.

They will offer their own legislation, led by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, which also protects access to contraceptives but limits certain types of medications that Republicans find objectionable.

In a memo released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee Tuesday and obtained by ABC News, Republicans were encouraged to tout their support for Ernst’s legislation and for birth control in general.

“Republicans support access to birth control. Democrats are trying to make this a campaign issue and scare voters because they can’t talk about their failed policies on every other issue. Senator Ernst’s bill lays out commonsense solutions that Republicans should strongly consider embracing on the campaign trail,” the memo concluded.

ABC News’ Tal Axelrod and Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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