July 2014 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Members of Congress Act to Protect Women’s Health

By Chelsea Wiggins, SIECUS Fellow

This summer, champions in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have gone to bat for women’s health, introducing and advocating for several bills that would help ensure safe access to a variety of healthcare services.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) (S. 1696/H.R. 3471) was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA-27) in November 2013. The bill aims to protect women’s access to abortion services by barring states from enacting Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that are not based in science and do nothing to protect women’s health.[1] The net effect of these restrictions, which are being enacted at breakneck speed across the country, is that women lose access to many health services, not just abortion services, and low-income women and women of color in particular are  severely impacted.[2] By ensuring that abortion clinics and providers are not subject to additional rules to which medically comparable procedures are not subject, WHPA protects the rights assured to women over 40 years ago in Roe v. Wade. In late June 2014, advocates flooded the Hill and gained an additional seven co-sponsors for the bill, bringing its total sponsorship to 36 Senate sponsors and 125 House sponsors.[3] On July 15, 2014 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on WHPA, during which Sens. Blumenthal and Baldwin (D-WI) and Reps. Chu and Taylor (D-WI-76) spoke up for women and made a compelling case for the bill. Although the WHPA is not expected to pass the House, it provides an opportunity for women’s health champions in Congress to show constituents exactly where they stand on this important issue.

On July 9, 2014, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-25) introduced the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578/H.R. 5051), also known as the “Not My Boss’ Business Bill.”[4] The bill aims to turn the clock back to the days before the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by clarifying that for-profit employers must cover all FDA-approved contraception as laid out in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[5] Sens. Murray and Udall (D-CO) moved at an impressive pace on the bill; it was introduced just days after the Hobby Lobby decision and has 46 Senate sponsors and 156 House sponsors.[6] The bill was up for a vote to proceed with a Senate passage vote the following week on July 16, 2014.[7] During their statements in opposition to the bill and its advancement, various members of the Republican party showed just how little they understand women’s health issues, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) repeatedly claiming that the contraceptives covered under the ACA were “abortion-inducing drugs” and asking “when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?”[8] Republican opposition prevented the bill from getting the 60 votes needed to move forward; the final tally was 56 for, 43 against.[9] However, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) voted “no,” a procedural move that will allow him to bring the bill up again in the future. Sen. Reid says the Senate will vote on the bill again before the year is out.[10]

On July 17, 2014 Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act (S. 2625), originally introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).[11] Previously Introduced in the House by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), the ABC Act aims to guarantee that women with valid prescriptions are not “denied or intimidated when requesting birth control or emergency contraception at pharmacies.”[12] It ensures that a pharmacist will help a woman obtain the medication for which she has a prescription, and if the medication is not in stock, the pharmacy is required to order the medication, refer the woman to another pharmacy, or return the prescription, according to the woman’s preference.[13] The ABC Act currently has 22 Senate sponsors and 34 House sponsors.[14] In the press release announcing the bill’s introduction, Sen. Booker noted that “Given the Supreme Court’s recent disturbing ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, we need to go on the offense to protect women’s reproductive rights.”[15] His bill, along with the WHPA and the Not My Boss’ Business Bill, does just that. 


[1] Congress.gov, S. 1696—Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/1696/text.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Congress.gov, S. 1696—Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/1696/cosponsors.

[4] Congress.gov, S. 2578—Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2578/related-bills.

[5] Congress.gov, S. 2578—Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2578/text.

[6] Congress.gov, S. 2578—Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2578/cosponsors.

[7] Kapur, Sahil, “Senate Republicans Filibuster Bill to Overturn Hobby Lobby” Talking Points Memo. July 16, 2014, accessed July 24, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/republicans-filibuster-bill-to-overturn-hobby-lobby.

[8] “Senate Session” C-SPAN video, 08:05:09, July 16, 2014, http://www.c-span.org/video/?320474-1/us-senate-general-speeches&start=2762 (at approx. 4:18:30).

[9] Ibid., Kapur, Sahil.

[10] Kristina Peterson, “Senate Bill to Nullify Hobby Lobby Decision Fails,” The Wall Street Journal. July 16, 2014, accessed August 1, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/senate-bill-against-hobby-lobby-decision-fails-1405537082.

[11] Congress.gov, S. 2625—Access to Birth Control Act, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/2625.

[12] Office of Sen. Cory Booker, “Sen. Booker Introduces Legislation to Protect Women’s Access to Contraception.”  July 17, 2014, accessed July 22, 2014, http://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=110.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Congress.gov, S. 2625—Access to Birth Control Act, accessed July 24, 2014, https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/728/cosponsors.

[15] Office of Sen. Cory Booker, “Sen. Booker Introduces Legislation to Protect Women’s Access to Contraception.”  July 17, 2014, accessed July 22, 2014, http://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=110.