In observance of International Women’s Day, all 12 Democratic women senators sent a letter Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner calling on him to rescind his pledge to push forward with efforts to restrict women’s access to contraception after the Blunt amendment was defeated in the Senate.
The senators’ letter comes in the wake of Boehner’s public pledge to continue efforts to limit birth control access in the House, where a similar version of the Blunt amendment has over 200 co-sponsors.
“Women are tired of being targets for a political strategy that endangers their health care and they want it to stop,” the senators’ letter says. “It’s time for you to put an end to the attacks on women’s health care and to work with the Senate to get back to the American people’s top priority: creating jobs and boosting our economy.”
Defeated last week, the Blunt amendment would have exempted nearly all employers from President Obama’s new rule mandating coverage of birth control for women. The amendment failed in a close 51-48 vote. Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to vote against the measure.
Boehner’s promise to continue fighting also comes despite a national outcry from women, the overwhelming majority of whom have used contraception at some point in their lifetime.
“We are asking that you abandon the promise you have made to bring legislation to the House floor similar to the Blunt amendment, which was defeated in the Senate last week, and which would turn the clock back on women’s access to health care,” the senators write. “At a time when 99% of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control, its role in the lives of women and their families is hard to understate…. That is why the recent Republican attacks on birth control access have been so eye-opening for American women. For most American women, the battle over contraception was settled a half century ago.”
The letter was sent by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Voters Oppose Birth Control Restrictions
Meanwhile, the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner polling organization released results of a opinion survey which finds that nearly half of voters say that if their member of Congress supported the Blunt amendment (first introduced by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri), it would make them less likely to support him or her. A near consensus exists that women should have access to birth control, that insurers should cover it, and that the decision to use birth control is a private one, the pollsters say.
By wide margins, battleground voters believe that Democrats do a better job on access to birth control, women’s health issues, and abortion. While they give the Republicans an advantage on protecting religious freedom, voters are split on which party would respect their individual religious faith, the pollsters say.
Voters strongly oppose the Blunt amendment. A majority believe that religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges should not have a religious exemption. Nearly half say that they would be less likely to support a candidate for office if he or she supported the Blunt Amendment, including a majority of independents, the pollsters say.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted the opinion survey on behalf of EMILY’s List and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to explore the impact of the birth control debate on voters in eight battleground Senate states.
The poll was conducted between February 27 and March 1, among 800 likely voters in Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percent.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.