'Democrats are fearmongering' with contraception bill, says letter signed by Romney and Lee

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, speaks in Washington on Dec. 19, 2018. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks in Washington on May 21, 2019. The two Utah senators signed a letter calling Democrat actions "fearmongering."

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, speaks in Washington on Dec. 19, 2018. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks in Washington on May 21, 2019. The two Utah senators signed a letter calling Democrat actions "fearmongering." (Susan Walsh and Patrick Semansky, Associated Press)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Democrat-backed bill aimed at enshrining the right to contraception into federal law infringes on parental rights and religious freedom, according to a letter signed by 22 Senate Republicans including Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee.

"There is no threat to access to contraception, which is legal in every state and required by law to be offered at no cost by health insurers," the lawmakers wrote. "(A)nd it's disgusting that Democrats are fearmongering on this important issue to score cheap political points."

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., led the effort on the statement, which was signed by Romney, Lee and 19 other Republican senators, including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Katie Britt, R-Ala., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Rand Paul, R-Ky., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill, known as the Right to Contraception Act, on Wednesday. In addition to creating a statutory right to access contraception, it would also establish a path for the U.S. attorney general to take civil action against any state or government official that limits or restricts contraception.

It also establishes a path to civil action for individuals and health care providers. The bill would apply to contraception such as birth control pills, condoms, intrauterine devices as well as vasectomies.

The Republican lawmakers say the bill violates Americans' religious liberty and parental rights because it "lets the federal government force religious institutions and schools, even public elementary schools, to offer contraception like condoms to little kids."

In establishing a statutory right to contraception, the bill does not list a minimum age requirement — such as 16 or 18, in line with some states that currently restrict access to birth control based on age.

When listing the reasons found to put forward this bill in the findings section, the bill states, "Providers' refusal to offer contraception based on their own personal beliefs impede patients from obtaining their preferred method of contraception, with laws in 12 states as of the date of introduction of this act specifically allowing health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception."

Some religions, such as Catholicism, oppose the use of contraceptives. Health care providers and private health care facilities have sometimes not prescribed or provided contraception citing the freedom of conscience and belief established by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court decided based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that private entities can be exempt from a regulation if the owners religiously object to it and there's a less restrictive avenue that could be taken. That was decided in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby — a case about contraception.


We will have an alternative that will make very clear that Republicans are for contraception.

–Sen. John Thune, R-S.D


The text of the bill states, "The act applies notwithstanding any other provision of federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993."

Concluding their letter, the Republican lawmakers wrote, "It's just another way for Democrats to use activist attorneys and our courts to advance their radical agenda and that is why we oppose this bill."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. D-N.Y., wrote a letter to his colleagues expressing support for the bill. He said the overturning of Roe v. Wade two years prior on June 24 was "one of the most draconian reversals of individual liberty ever."

Schumer said there's more to come after the Senate votes on the Right to Contraception Act.

"Democrats have been clear we will not stand for these attacks and we will fight to preserve reproductive freedoms. That is why as we return from the Memorial Day state work period, Senate Democrats will be putting reproductive freedoms front and center," said Schumer.

The Biden administration has expressed support for the bill.

"The administration strongly supports Senate passage of S 4381, the Right to Contraception Act, which would protect the fundamental right to access contraception and help ensure that women can make decisions about their health, lives and families," said the White House office of management and budget.


Democrats have been clear we will not stand for these attacks and we will fight to preserve reproductive freedoms.

–Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY


The act is cosponsored by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

"This vote poses one simple question: do you believe Americans' access to birth control should be protected?" said Markey at a press conference Wednesday. He said Republicans will say they support the right to contraception, but the bill will force them to show whether or not they do.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., one of the letter's signatories, told CNN, "We will have an alternative that will make very clear that Republicans are for contraception."

One alternative seems to be coming from Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa in the form of the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act. The bill would prevent tax dollars from funding abortion or abortion providers while also giving women increased access to contraception without a prescription.

The Washington Examiner got a first look at Ernst's bill. A spokesperson from her office told the outlet she would push for a floor vote.

A memo from the National Republican Senatorial Committee obtained by ABC News encourages GOP Senate candidates to embrace "commonsense solutions" like those found in Ernst's bill and talk about them on the campaign trail.

As for the Right to Contraception Act, it's unexpected to clear the Senate, while at least one Republican has expressed tepid support for it.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would likely vote to advance the bill, but wants to see it amended to include religious liberty protections, per the Associated Press.

"It is clearly a messaging attempt and not a serious attempt in itself," said Collins.

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