When we last left the contraception fight on Capitol Hill, there were some divisions between congressional Republican leaders and rank-and-file House GOP lawmakers. The former wanted the issue to go away, while the latter still expected action on the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” – the House version of the already-defeated Blunt Amendment.
As of now, it appears the leadership is winning.
House Republicans, unsure how to proceed, have slowed their efforts to overturn a federal rule requiring employers, including religious institutions, to provide female employees with free health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
While most House Republicans still support legislation to broaden the exemption for religious employers, House Republican leaders are carefully reviewing their options on the issue, which Democrats used to political advantage in the Senate.
The goal of House Republicans has not changed, they said, but they worry about further alienating women in this year’s elections.
Remember, this is a reversal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), just two weeks ago, vowed to keep the fight to limit contraception access going. As he saw it, this would be an election-year winner for his caucus and the Republican Party in general.
The Speaker seemed to change his mind, though, when Democrats seemed even more eager to engage in this fight, and polls showed the public siding with the administration. Rush Limbaugh’s antics didn’t help the Republican cause, either.
For those who support access to birth control, the House’s newfound reluctance to tackle the issue is encouraging, but the news is not all good.
Pema Levy reported yesterday that the fight is now shifting away from Capitol Hill and into state capitals, where “several state legislatures were inspired rather than dissuaded by the contraception debate in Washington, and are considering their own versions of the Blunt Amendment.”
By TPM’s count, four states – Arizona, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Georgia – are considering bills to restrict contraception access, while five more – Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Wyoming – are considering resolutions to condemn the administration’s policy.
Republicans in Washington are starting to see this issue as an election-year loser, making the gender gap much worse, but GOP policymakers in the states may not have gotten the memo.