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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Here’s how your Tennessee Congressperson voted on codifying contraception law

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Congress voted on a bill this week that would codify contraception availability for Americans, but the majority of Tennessee’s congressional members voted against the measure.

Tennessee’s delegation voted 6-2 against the bill, which largely fell along party lines at 228-195. Rep. Tim Burchett wasn’t in session this week due to illness.

This bill came after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade. Presented in arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested further rollbacks should be considered, including contraception. His argument revolved around a decision from 1965 involving married couples’ use of contraceptives. He didn’t mention a 1972 decision that legalized the use of contraceptives by unmarried people.

Republicans in Congress overwhelming voted against it, except for eight members.

At the legislative level, Tennessee’s key leaders have said they didn’t want to unfurl any bills to prohibit contraception.

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton briefly addressed the ideas on NewsChannel 5’s Inside Politics this summer.

“I think oral contraceptives are fine,” Sexton said.

Gov. Bill Lee also addressed reporters’ questions about the topic.

“There is no law on our books that deals with contraception, emergency contraception. I do not know of any plans for such.”

How Tennessee’s congressional delegation voted and why

When it came to his thought process, Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, said he had major concerns because of the language that he thought was vague and broad.

“As a medical doctor, Rep. Green could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that could result in serious safety issues for the women who would use the non-FDA-approved contraceptives,” spokesperson Rebecca Galfano said. “During debate on the bill, he supported a proposal from Congresswoman Ashley Hinson that sought to expand over-the-counter access to FDA-approved oral contraceptives so women could access birth control pills at their local pharmacy. The legal right to contraception is not in doubt in any state in this country, and Rep. Green does not seek to prohibit access to contraception. He voted “no” strictly due to the safety concerns for women and the violation of conscience protections for healthcare providers.”

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, had similar feelings but thought it should be left to the legislative level in Tennessee.

“This was a Democratic messaging bill and nothing more than political theater in an election year,” DesJarlais said. “These are decisions that should be made by individual states and not one state has banned contraceptives. The American people want Congress focused on solving our economic crisis, overrun southern border, and national security threats.”

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, alluded that the vote was a necessary step Congress should take.

“In 2020, Justice Thomas called for overturning Roe,” Cooper said. “After doing so, he’s now calling for “reconsidering” Griswold, which ensures the right to contraception. The Court is trying to turn back the clock in more ways than one. Congress must step in to protect our rights and liberties.”

NewsChannel 5 asked every House representative for their thoughts on their votes. Rep. Diane Harshbarger, Rep. Chuck Fleishmann, Rep. John Rose, Rep. David Kustoff and Rep. Steve Cohen didn’t respond.

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