116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa Republicans voted against a bill that passed the U.S. House Thursday largely along party lines that would enshrine in the law the right to use contraception nationwide.
Iowa Republican U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson, of Marion, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, of Ottumwa, said the legislation went too far.
They said it would lead to more abortions, which supporters deny, allow the use of drugs not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration and force health-care providers to offer contraceptives, even if that contradicted their religious beliefs.
Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, of Hull, also voted against the bill. Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, of West Des Moines, voted in favor.
Hinson instead introduced legislation co-sponsored with Miller-Meeks that would allow people over age 18 to access birth control pills over-the-counter that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
House Democrats blocked consideration of Hinson's bill.
Over-the-counter birth control pills are available worldwide, but are available in the U.S. only with a prescription. The FDA is currently considering whether to approve over-the-counter contraceptive pills from HRA Pharma.
Hinson said women should be able to access their preferred birth control method conveniently, and that it was particularly important for women in rural areas who may have to drive more than an hour to see their doctor.
“I’m proposing a solution that the overwhelming majority of women agree with — making their regular birth control pill available at their local pharmacy,” Hinson said. “We have an opportunity here to work together to enact meaningful legislation that will benefit women.
"Instead, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have offered a bill that I simply cannot support. ... I’m offering a solution we should all be able to get behind. We should work together to make oral contraceptives more accessible.“
State and national Democrats argue it will not matter if birth control is available over the counter if it’s not available in the first place.
Democrats say the House-passed legislation would defend decades-long precedent and ensure access to contraceptives in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned a federal right to an abortion.
In a concurrence to Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion last month overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision from 1973, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should now review other precedents, including a 1965 ruling that affirmed the rights of married couples’ use of contraceptives.
House Democrats note several states already have restricted access to contraception by cutting off public funding for it and allowing health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception based on their personal beliefs.
And as more states continue to ban abortion starting at fertilization, they note such restrictions could be interpreted to limit access to certain forms of birth control, such as intrauterine devices, that prevent implantation in the uterus but not fertilization.
Miller-Meeks, in a statement, said as a physician and former Iowa Director of Public Health she recognizes the need for increased access to affordable oral contraceptives and “common-sense legislation that both increases availability and protects women’s health.”
“However, I do not support H.R. 8373 because this bill permits non-FDA approved agents and devices that would put women’s health at risk, and it eliminates conscience protection laws and singles out that all providers would be required to administer contraceptives despite their moral or religious beliefs,” she said. “I believe that it is important to protect health-care workers and allow them to make decisions according to their sincerely held beliefs.”
It’s unclear whether the Right to Contraception Act will pass the evenly divided U.S. Senate, where they will need at least 10 GOP votes to defeat a filibuster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Comments: (319) 398-8499; firstname.lastname@example.org