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Democrats make another push to codify a right to birth control


by Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner
March 8, 2024

Wisconsin Democrats called for Republicans to schedule a vote on a bill that would codify the right to contraception in a state statute Thursday. 

The lawmakers’ urging comes as fears about restrictions on reproductive health care have grown following a state Supreme Court ruling in Alabama that frozen embryos outside the womb are “children,” and as Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin continue to split over abortion access and measures to better access to birth control

“Republican attacks on bodily autonomy are reaching far beyond abortion access,” Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) said. “But the last thing we can afford to do is be complacent, we cannot wait until it is too late to take action. We must take action to protect contraception access and protect people’s medical freedom.” 

The “Right to Contraception Act”, coauthored by Hesselbein and Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) would establish that Wisconsinites have a statutory right to obtain contraceptives and that health care providers have a right to provide contraceptives and related information to patients. 

Hesselbein noted that access to contraception, including over the counter contraceptives, is incredibly popular among voters. 

A recent national poll by Americans for Contraception found that 88% of voters say it’s important to them that Americans have the right to make their own decisions about when to use contraception and what method they use. The poll also found that most voters believe their access to birth control is at risk.

Hesselbein said there was no reason for lawmakers to leave access to contraception in limbo. 

The Senate is expected to meet for its last floor session next week and the Assembly wrapped up its legislative work last month. Hesselbein noted that lawmakers could continue to work until April of this year if they wanted. 

Subeck said lawmakers would deliver a petition with about 15,000 signatures from Wisconsinites urging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) to take action. 

Megan Lowe, an advocate for the bill, said that she made the difficult decision of putting her 15-year-old daughter, who is nonverbal and has a disability, on birth control after consultation with their doctor. She said she was concerned about her daughter’s safety due to the increased rates of sexual violence faced by women with disabilities. 

“This was to keep her safe,” Lowe said. “This legislation is a critical step to ensuring [my daughter’s] protection and her dignity and other women like her…. This act provides the necessary shields. It’s about safeguarding our children’s futures and ensuring that they live in a state that respects and protects their rights.” 

Subeck emphasized that there are lawmakers in the state Legislature who would stand in the way of access to contraceptives if they could. 

“I’ve sat in hearings where people have testified, claiming that contraception has ruined humanity, has somehow impacted the family unit, some claiming that contraception is the same as abortion because they want to do away with contraception,” Subeck said. 

Subeck said some have asked her why the bill is needed. She noted that contraception has been protected in the U.S. since the 1970s due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird decisions that protected access to contraceptives for married couples and single people on the basis of privacy.

“All that was put into jeopardy when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” Subeck said. She said those Supreme Court decisions are no longer protecting people. “If we want to ensure that every Wisconsinite holds onto the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions, to not have politicians interfering in decisions about when or if they are going to have a family…, we need to pass our bill.”

This story is republished from the Wisconsin Examiner under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.