May 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Senate Democrats plot reproductive-rights blitz

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference in the Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to zero in on reproductive rights next month — potentially forcing Republicans to take tough votes on issues such as contraception and in vitro fertilization.

Why it matters: The move is meant to tap into the potency of abortion rights as a voter-turnout generator for Democrats five months from Election Day. It's timed to roughly coincide with the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, on June 24.

Driving the news: The details of the reproductive-rights blitz are being hashed out by a small working group of senators, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told Axios.

  • "We are certainly going to be talking a lot about [abortion]," she said.
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a leading advocate of protecting access to the procedure, said leaders plan to talk about potential floor actions on abortion-related bills later, but didn't specify when.
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee chair Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) confirmed to Axios he plans to use his gavel to push abortion rights around the anniversary of the court's ruling, which led to a wave of abortion restrictions in red states. He declined to elaborate.
  • "I imagine that there'll be some more policy legislation that will be discussed — whether it's on the floor or through committee gatherings," Sen. Ben Ray Lújan (D-N.M.), a member of Sanders' panel, told Axios.

Zoom in: Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), who is facing a tough re-election fight in November, said it's important for the Senate to debate a plan to ensure easier access to contraceptives, as well as Sen. Tammy Duckworth's (D-Ill.) bill to protect access to in vitro fertilization.

  • "I think it's going to be a significant issue in all these races, including mine," Casey said. "It's a major dividing line between the two parties."
  • Republicans blocked passage of Duckworth's bill earlier this year.

Between the lines: November ballot measures seeking to guarantee abortion rights are either locked in or under consideration in several states — including Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Florida — that also are home to Senate races that could be pivotal in determining control of the chamber next year.

  • Democrats are eager to remind voters of their support for reproductive rights and to paint a contrast with Republicans at every turn.
  • Keeping the issue front and center also could help juice support for President Biden in swing states likely to decide the presidential election, including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada.

The other side: Republicans are doing their own messaging on reproductive rights, with Sens. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introducing legislation to prevent states from blocking access to IVF services.

  • "We have a much better proposal and Republicans ought to support it," Schumer told reporters Tuesday.
Go deeper