Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers helped lead the Republican opposition on Thursday to a Democratic proposal to protect access to contraception nationwide.
“Every woman’s potential journey to motherhood is different,” the Spokane congresswoman said on the House floor during Thursday’s debate before calling on 11 other Republicans to give their positions. “I support their access to contraception. However, this legislation has a lot of problems.”
All three Republicans in the House from Washington and both Republicans from Idaho opposed the contraception legislation. The final count was significantly different from a vote earlier this week, when a bill that would protect same-sex and interracial marriage won significant GOP support, including from Reps. Mike Simpson of Idaho and Dan Newhouse from central Washington.
The measure approved Thursday would codify the right to contraception protected by the 1965 Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut. Since the Supreme Court overturned long-standing precedent providing abortion rights in Roe v. Wade last month, many Democrats and others have expressed concern that similar Supreme Court decisions could also be reversed.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court opinion in the case that reversed abortion rights, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, referred to Griswold and other cases (including Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects same-sex marriages) as “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”
Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said concerns about the Supreme Court overturning a national right to contraception are legitimate.
“We saw the votes,” he said, referring to the 194 Republicans who voted against the bill.
Kyle VonEnde, spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, said in a statement, however, that McMorris Rodgers would support different legislation protecting rights to contraception.
“Cathy supports women’s access to contraception and would have been happy to roll up her sleeves to work with Democrats on legislation if they asked. In fact, she is working on two bills right now to prevent any state from banning FDA-approved contraception and ensure women in every state can get routine contraception over the counter.”
McMorris Rodgers opened her arguments by accusing the Democrats of “failures to draft good policy” and called the legislation a “Trojan Horse for more abortions.”
In particular, McMorris Rodgers took issue with how the bill defines contraception: “Democrats included a definition of contraception that is not limited to FDA-approved products. The term contraception is defined as ‘an action taken to prevent pregnancy, including the use of contraceptives or fertility-awareness based methods, and sterilization procedures.’ ”
She went on to claim that the bill opens the door to “abortion on demand.”
Dillon noted that abortion and contraception are not the same. The bill’s only mention of abortion is to reference states that have “attempted to define abortion expansively so as to include contraceptives” for the sake of restricting access to the latter.
McMorris Rodgers went on to criticize Planned Parenthood. “It should be called the Payouts for Planned Parenthood Act,” she said. “It would send more taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, freeing up more funds for them to provide abortions.”
The bill briefly mentions Title X, which is a federal program that provides funds for birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases . But the bill does not specifically allocate funds to Planned Parenthood or any other organization.
Planned Parenthood is, as a reproductive health provider, a recipient of Title X funding.
“In 2015, our Pullman clinic was fire-bombed. In (McMorris Rodgers’) district. And she said absolutely nothing. This is just another attempt in a long, long line of attempts to smear Planned Parenthood,” Dillon said.
“She’s using a sleight of hand to say that this is a Planned Parenthood funding bill when Title X is a federal program,” Dillon said in response to McMorris Rodgers’ accusation that the bill would lead to abortions.
Under federal law called the Hyde Amendment, funding allocated to Planned Parenthood for contraception can’t be used for abortions, and Planned Parenthood only uses “all FDA approved contraception,” Dillon said.
McMorris Rodgers said that if “Democrats had come to me and asked to work together on a bill, I would have been happy to roll up my sleeves to work with them.” She added, “Republicans on both sides of the Capitol have led on solutions to allow for greater access to safe and effective contraception.”
Dillon called the latter a “complete fabrication. There has been no leadership at all from congressional GOP on contraception, they have tried intentionally to gut the Title X program.”
During the Trump Administration, a “gag rule” slashed Title X funding to Planned Parenthood. In 2021, Planned Parenthood locally received no Title X funding. According to Dillon, state funding covered the 20% of the organization’s budget that previously came from Title X during that time. He estimates that nationwide, Planned Parenthood gets about 40% of its funding from Title X.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 22, 2022 to add comments from Kyle VonEnde, spokesman for McMorris Rodgers.
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