Murkowski votes to advance Democrats’ ‘messaging’ bill on contraception rights

woman with sandy hair and earrings.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Anchorage in 2022. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republican senators to vote Wednesday to advance a bill that would put a right to contraception into federal law.

The procedural measure got 51 votes. It needed 60, so it’s not going anywhere. But the bill succeeded in putting Republicans on the spot in an election year.

Murkowski acknowledged the political motives behind the bill in a video she posted on social media.

“If it is going to be a messaging bill, I want my message to be very clear that a woman should have a right to contraception,” she said. “It’s as simple as that for me.”

Other Republicans called the bill fear-mongering. Some said it went beyond the right to birth control.

“It defines contraception so broadly, that it likely also includes a right to a chemical abortion pill,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “It eviscerates conscience protections for health care providers, overriding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Sponsors said the legislation wouldn’t impinge on anyone’s religious freedom.

The bill was part of the Democrats’ effort to motivate voters by showcasing their support for reproductive rights. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said the Supreme Court decision overturning the right to abortion shows why the contraception bill is important.

“It demonstrated that a fundamental right, the right of women to make decisions over their own bodies, could be taken away in the blink of an eye — in the blink of an eye — by anti-choice extremists,” she said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, did not vote on the contraception bill, despite casting others votes — against Biden administration nominations — a few hours prior. His office wouldn’t say why he wasn’t there for the contraception vote or how he would have voted.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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