House Approves Birth Control Bill Despite Religious Freedom, Abortion Issues | Baptist life

WASHINGTON (BP)—The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday (July 21) to protect contraceptive rights that opponents say will actually violate religious freedom and promote abortion.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 228 to 195, largely along party lines, for the Birth Control Act. Eight Republicans joined every Democrat in the chamber in endorsing the proposal.

The House action was the majority party’s latest effort to codify into law U.S. Supreme Court precedents they say are under threat after the justices overturned Roe v. Wade of 1973 which legalized abortion nationwide. The Contraceptive Rights Act is necessary to protect the freedom to use contraceptives that was granted by high court decisions in the 1960s and 1970s, Democrats said.

The bill, however, specifically prohibits the application of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA), a 1993 federal law that prohibits the government from significantly interfering with the free exercise of religion. This provision drew a strong rebuke from Brent Leatherwood, acting chairman of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“While from afar this legislation may seem innocuous, an examination of the details reveals that it is nothing less than an affront to religious freedom,” Leatherwood told The Baptist Press in written remarks. “I realize that some congressional leaders are going after the Dobbs decision in different ways, but creating an exclusion from RFRA protections and a pathway to pave consciences with sincere religious objections is simply extreme. “

Leatherwood reiterated a request he has made several times since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in its June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“I once again implore our policy makers to focus on ways to develop a culture of life where lives are saved, mothers are served and families are supported,” he said.

The stated purpose of the Right to Contraception Act is to “protect a person’s ability to access contraceptives and practice contraception, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide contraceptives , contraception and contraceptive information”.

The bill’s enemies, however, say the language of the 14-page bill goes beyond support for contraceptives and presents multiple problems. Among the concerns expressed by at least some opponents:

– The proposal would replace the RFRA and any federal or state law that conflicts with the Right to Contraception Act, thereby removing conscience protections for health care providers who object to the provision of certain types of contraceptives. contraceptives, including those that may have the ability to induce abortions.

– The measure would ban the banning of government money for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers who refuse to separate the performance of the procedure lethal to unborn children from taxpayer-funded family planning facilities.

— Its expanded definition of contraceptives could undo restrictions on medical/chemical abortions.

“Far from being a bill that simply allows access to contraception, this bill aims to bail out the abortion industry, trample on conscience rights and demand unfettered access to medication. chemicals dangerous to abortion,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America, said in a letter to House members.

Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s leading abortion provider, applauded the House “for taking the first steps necessary to enshrine our right to contraception in addition to the critical steps they have taken to protect access to abortion,” Alexis said. McGill Johnson, president of the organization.

Proponents of the Birth Control Act cited language from a concurring opinion by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas to push for passage of the proposal. A member of the 5-4 majority that overturned Roe, Thomas wrote in a separate opinion on June 24 that the High Court “should reconsider” all precedents regarding “substantive due process”.

Among these precedents, Thomas mentioned Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision that protected the right of married couples to use contraception. The Supreme Court extended this right to unmarried persons in its 1972 decision Eisenstadt v. Baird.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito, however, said in the majority opinion that the decision to overturn Roe did not overrule the judges’ rulings in other cases. “[W]We have stated unequivocally that “[n]nothing in this opinion should be understood as calling into question precedents that do not relate to abortion,” he wrote. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh reiterated this view in his own concurring opinion.

In a floor debate Thursday, Rep. Frank Pallone, DN.J., said some state lawmakers followed the judges’ overturning of Roe and Thomas’ comments in working to ban specific contraceptives. . “[W]while the right to contraception is legal today, we must act to ensure that it remains so in the future. This legislation does exactly that, enshrining the right to contraception in federal law,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans “of being against birth control, but they are for controlling women. It is a matter of bondage.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Republicans support access to contraceptives, but the bill should be called the “Payouts for Planned Parenthood Act.”

“It would send more taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, freeing up more funds so they can have abortions and end vulnerable lives,” she said during an indoor debate. “This allows Planned Parenthood and abortion providers to prescribe on- and off-label drugs to be used for abortions without any restrictions.”

Approval of the Right to Contraception Act followed the House passing at least three other bills in reaction to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs and/or Thomas’s agreement:

– The Women’s Health Protection Act, which would surpass Roe in banning federal and state regulations of the procedure authorized by judges under the 1973 ruling, and the Abortion Access Act, which would ban pro-life efforts to ban abortion tourism to other states and block the shipment of abortion pills across state lines. The House approved the proposals by 219-210 and 223-205 votes on July 15, respectively.

– The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and require federal and state recognition of same-sex marriages deemed legal in the jurisdiction where they took place. It passed the House on July 19 in a vote of 267 to 157.

The RFRA, which was a legislative response to a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that weakened religious freedom protections, passed unopposed in the House and 97-3 in the Senate before President Clinton signed it into law. . In recent years, however, many Democrats have begun to oppose RFRA’s demand when it clashes with abortion or gay and transgender rights.

Under the RFRA, the government can obtain an exemption from the requirement not to substantially interfere with the free exercise of religion if it can demonstrate that it has a compelling interest and is using the “least restrictive means.” to promote this interest.

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