HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Senators Press Votes on Contraception Bill

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Senate Democrats today will try to clear legislation to codify access to contraception via unanimous consent.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) announced they’ll bring to the floor a companion version of a House-passed (H.R. 8373) bill that would guarantee a federal right to contraception. “All Republicans have to do tomorrow is get out of the way,” Murray said.

The legislation is one of several meant to put Republicans on the record on domestic policy issues. Opponents of the legislation have argued that it’s overly broad and that the right to contraception was enshrined nearly 60 years ago by the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut decision.

However, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court could revisit that right in an opinion written concurring with the decision to overturn the long-standing right to abortion in June, Alex Ruoff reports.


  • S.C. Abortion Ban: A challenge to South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban was transferred Tuesday to the state’s highest court in a decision allowing the state law to remain in effect. Read more from Jennifer Kay.
  • Republicans Press Google: GOP attorneys general from 17 states called on Google to provide assurances that the search engine isn’t suppressing results for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in favor of real abortion clinics. The letter asked Google to resist a call from Democrats to “limit the appearance of pro-life clinics” in its search results. Jeff Green has more.
  • Ethics Conference Protests: The largest professional research ethics organization has pulled its annual conference out of Salt Lake City because of Utah’s new trigger law to outlaw most abortions and the state’s ban on transgender women from participating in women’s sports. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.
  • Fetal Rights Laws: Conservative states are trying to redefine what it means to be a person as they seek to impose new bans on abortion. Giving embryos and fetuses the same rights as people raises questions in virtually every area of law, ranging from minor traffic violations to criminal prosecutions. Read more from Lydia Wheeler.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Wednesday’s Hill Hearings:

  • Heat Stress, Nutrition: The House Education and Labor Committee plans to take up a bill (H.R. 2193) requiring the US to set a heat stress standard.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans: The House Ways and Means Committee plans to mark up a bill (H.R. 3173) with more than 300 cosponsors that aims to streamline prior authorization rules for Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Veterans’ Health Data: The House Veterans’ Affairs Technology Modernization Subcommittee holds a hearing on protecting veterans’ health records. Terry Adirim, the Veterans Affairs Department’s director of health data modernization, will testify.

Wyden Proposes Adding IRS Funds to Health Bill: Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Democrats are considering adding additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service to the health-care budget reconciliation bill they want to pass this summer. Wyden said his plan to provide an additional $80 billion to the IRS would raise $120 billion in revenue from tax audits on the rich that could be used to offset the costs of Affordable Care Act premiums for several years, or for more Covid aid. Erik Wasson and Laura Davison have more.

  • Democrats Push Forward: Senate Democrats have given their GOP counterparts legislative text for a two-year extension of bolstered Affordable Care Act premium subsidies, two Senate GOP aides said. The move shows Democrats are preparing to advance the ACA provision as part of the reconciliation bill, allowing them to pass it with simple majority, Alex Ruoff reports.


  • Vegetarian Meals Request: Thirty-two lawmakers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Tuesday urged Biden to get more vegetarian entrees into federal cafeterias. They said Biden should urge US agencies to serve meatless options ahead of the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September, Maeve Sheehey reports. Read their letter here.
  • Democrats’ Covid Protocols: Facing the congressional calendar crunch and a wave of new infections, Senate Democrats are taking extra precautions to avoid further spread of Covid within their ranks and help ensure they have enough votes to pass health-care legislation next week. Zach C. Cohen and Alex Ruoff have more.

Regulatory & Legal News

Booster Push Could Save 160,000 Lives: A booster campaign this fall could prevent 160,000 deaths, 1.7 million hospitalizations, and $109 billion in direct medical costs, the Commonwealth Fund found in an analysis released Tuesday. Their findings come as the FDA has directed vaccine makers to tailor new boosters to omicron subvariants that are dominating in the US. But the White House has said there isn’t enough funding for another universal round of shots, Jeannie Baumann reports. Read the report here.

Texas Lawyer Takes Aim at Wide Swath of Care: Groundbreaking drugs that prevent HIV infection may be harder to get in the US if a prominent Texas lawyer wins a case that pits his clients’ religious beliefs against free nationwide access to the medicines. At issue in part are Gilead’s Truvada and Descovy, forms of pre-exposure prophylaxis that are taken daily by hundreds of thousands of Americans, particularly men who have sex with men. Read more from Erik Larson and Janet Miranda.

The case targets the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate. The end of the mandate could threaten patients’ access to things like free or low-cost blood screenings for diabetes and cholesterol, vaccines for children and adults, pap smears, and tests for conditions like sexually transmitted diseases, and some forms of cancer, Janet Miranda reports.

Cancer Patients to Get Easier Path to Trials: Patients with incurable cancers should have an easier time getting into clinical trials under new FDA guidance on developing criteria for trial eligibility. The final guidance marks the latest bid by the agency to expand the criteria for who can participate in cancer trials. Jeannie Baumann has more.

More Headlines:

With assistance from Jeannie Baumann

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at; Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at

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