Bill to ensure access to contraception advances in Pennsylvania, helped by dozens of House GOP votes

Bill to ensure access to contraception advances in Pennsylvania, helped by dozens of House GOP votes

Bill to ensure access to contraception advances in Pennsylvania, helped by dozens of House GOP votes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A proposal to guarantee access to contraceptives passed the Democratic majority of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday, attracting dozens of Republican votes but faces an uncertain future in the controlled state Senate. by the Republican Party.

The bill passed 133-69, with 14 women among the 32 Republicans who voted in favor. A spokeswoman for the Senate Republican Caucus did not respond directly when asked whether Republican senators or their leaders generally supported the measure.

There was no debate on the House floor before the vote, only brief comments from the sponsor, Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware County.

The bill would have the state health secretary or physician general issue a statewide standing order for FDA-approved over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, including emergency contraception. It would require health insurance and government programs to cover all prescribed FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and other products, without copays.

It would also provide a religious and moral exception for employers, based on federal law, but that exception would not apply if the drug is necessary for medical needs other than pregnancy prevention. There are also confidentiality provisions.

The vote came nearly three weeks after Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked federal legislation designed to protect women’s access to contraceptives.

The issue took on new national importance when former President Donald Trump told a Pittsburgh television station in May that he was open to supporting regulations on contraception. Trump later said that his comments had been misinterpreted and that he “has never and will never advocate” for restricting such access.

Planned Parenthood PA Advocates CEO Signe Espinoza called the proposal “a huge shift toward control over our bodies.”

“We must have control over if and when we decide to start our families, but Pennsylvania for too long has allowed loopholes, exemptions and oversights to stand between us and our autonomy,” Espinoza said in a statement.

Rep. Krueger said in an interview Monday that she was also concerned about Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion access two years ago. Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” including cases that found that married people have the right to obtain contraceptives, people can engage in private and consensual sexual acts, and the right to marriage between people of the same sex.

A state law could help people get contraceptives if federal law changes, Krueger said.

“We have seen that access to reproductive health care, including contraception, is being reduced to a state’s rights issue,” Krueger said.

In other states, contraception has been a politically contentious issue. A review earlier this month by the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion access, found that several states have proposed or enacted laws to reduce access to contraception this year.

KFF, a nonprofit that studies health care issues, said in May that 14 states have legal or constitutional protections for the right to contraception, and six states and Washington, D.C. have enacted them since the high court’s decision on abortion in June 2022.