House Democrats on Tuesday plan to go on the offensive on reproductive rights, with an announcement that they will seek to force a vote on legislation to codify the right to birth control access nationwide.

The maneuver, through a procedural move known as a discharge petition, is all but certain to fail for lack of Republican support, but that is by design. It is part of a broad election-year push by Democrats to highlight Republicans’ record of opposing abortion rights and other reproductive health choices that voters fear will be stripped away following the fall of Roe v. Wade.

“The choice to use birth control should be yours and yours alone,” said Representative Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, the Democratic whip, who has held abortion events with 11 members and candidates across the country. “House Republicans have a choice to make: either sign this discharge petition or put their anti-freedom extremism in full view of the American people.”

It comes as Senate Democrats plan to force a vote this week on an identical contraceptive access bill, which Republicans are expected to block. The coordinated legislative push shows that Democrats regard issues of access to abortion, contraception and reproductive health options as their strongest issue on which to draw a contrast with Republicans before the November elections.

“Voters know that Republicans oppose abortion and that they are generally supportive of restrictions on abortion,” said Molly Murphy, a pollster for President Biden’s re-election campaign. “What voters don’t know is that Republicans are actively trying to find ways to ban and restrict abortion and contraception. That’s a significant gap of opportunity for Democrats. There’s a difference between being against something and actively working to take it away.”

The complicated and drawn-out discharge petition process allows lawmakers to make an end run around their leaders and force consideration of a piece of legislation on the floor if they collect the signatures of a majority of the members of the House. With Republicans holding a slim majority — 217 seats to Democrats’ 213 — only a handful of defectors would need to sign to meet the threshold of 218 votes.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Kathy Manning, Democrat of North Carolina, already has 203 co-sponsors, all Democrats, putting it well within striking distance. Under House rules, Democrats must wait seven workdays before they can start collecting signatures for the petition. After that, Democrats say they plan to spotlight Republicans’ failure to sign on early and often — focusing especially on those from competitive districts.

“All those freshman Republicans in New York and California that cost us the House majority in 2022 will have to answer a question of why are they not signing it,” said Chris Fleming, a Democratic strategist.

The discharge petition mechanism was created as a last-ditch check on the power of the majority party. While it seldom succeeds, earlier this year Democrats and Republicans did use one to force a vote on legislation that would provide tax relief to victims of disasters around the country, and it passed overwhelmingly.

The House first passed the Right to Contraception Act in July of 2022, when Democrats controlled the House, immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision, in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that overturned abortion rights at the federal level. Democrats pushed through the bill over almost unanimous Republican opposition in part because Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion in Dobbs, wrote that the court “should reconsider” other precedents beyond Roe, including those protecting same-sex marriage and the right to contraception. Senate Republicans blocked the legislation, which was opposed by anti-abortion groups that said the bill’s definition of contraceptives could be interpreted to include pills that induce abortion.

“Extremist Republican politicians are waging war on women’s reproductive health,” Ms. Manning said. “They’ve stripped women of their constitutional right to obtain an abortion, attacked fertility treatments and are now attempting to restrict access to birth control.”

Outside groups are boosting the legislative push by pouring tens of millions of dollars into competitive House districts to amplify the message. The main super PAC supporting House Democrats last month announced a new $100 million fund focusing on abortion rights in swing districts. And the group Americans for Contraception plans to spend more than $7 million on television and digital ads, some targeting Republicans in the Senate who vote against the bill and House members who do not sign the petition, and others thanking vulnerable Senate Democrats who vote to pass the bill this week. They also plan to have a 20-foot-tall I.U.D. roaming around Washington to raise awareness on the issue of contraception.

Republicans remain in a bind on issues of reproductive rights, as they struggle to reconcile their party’s hard-line policies on women’s health measures and the reality that they are out of step with the vast majority of the country. Despite that, they continue to tuck anti-abortion policies into pending legislation, a sign of the power of the anti-abortion lobby in national politics.

A new Republican-written bill to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs includes language that prohibits the department from offering abortion counseling and, in certain cases, abortions to veterans and beneficiaries. And the Defense Department’s 2025 appropriations bill once again includes language that says no funds can be used for “any abortion, including through a medical benefits package or health benefits program that includes coverage of abortion.”

“House Republicans’ dangerous plans to embed extreme anti-abortion restrictions in must-pass legislation make one thing super clear,” said Viet Shelton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “House Republicans are still obsessed with banning abortion nationwide, and their most vulnerable members are all in on this radical pursuit.”


Original story HERE