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Republican Senator Blocks Murray, Smith Effort to Pass Commonsense Family Planning Bill

Smith, Murray, Warren bill would protect and expand access to birth control and other essential reproductive health care services


***WATCH: Senator Murray calls out Republicans’ hypocrisy on Senate floor***


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), sought unanimous consent to pass her bill with Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to protect and expand access to family planning services—but Republican Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) blocked the legislation.


The Expanding Access to Family Planning Act would protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program. After Roe was overturned, Republicans have claimed that they support family planning and will pursue policies to support women and families—with Senator Marshall last week stating at a HELP hearing that “family planning opportunities need to be expanded.”


“As much as Republicans are talking now about supporting women’s health, as hard as they might try to pretend that they do support family planning services, when they’ve been given a chance today … they stood in the way,” said Senator Murray. “We are not proposing anything radical or groundbreaking here. We are simply saying we should expand the national family planning program that already exists. The one President Nixon signed into law decades ago. The one we have already funded before, in a bipartisan way, many times. Title X is a program that is already providing patients family planning services and contraception, STI testing and treatment, screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer, and more.”


“So my message to the American people who are witnessing this? Pay attention. Pay attention. The Republican agenda is: no to family planning, no to your right to travel for the health care you need, and no to your constitutional right to abortion,” added Senator Murray. “Senate Democrats and I will not stop holding them accountable for empty promises or for the devastating harm that their extreme abortion bans are now inflicting on so many patients and families.”


The Title X Family Planning Program is the only federal program dedicated to providing comprehensive family planning and preventive health services. Hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on the program for essential health care. In 2020 alone, over 1.5 million patients received family planning services through Title X. Title X is funded through the annual appropriations process, which subjects the program to an unpredictable funding stream that is insufficient to meet the national need. The legislation would provide a consistent and strong source of funding for Title X.


Senators Smith, Murray, and Warren introduced the bill alongside 30 of their Democratic colleagues on Tuesday. You can access a summary of the legislation here and the full text here.


Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:


“Thank you M. President.


“It’s now been almost a month since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ended the right to abortion, and upended health care for women across the country.


“And every single day, women, providers, and patients have been shouting from the rooftops about how damaging this is—how women’s lives are at risk.


“Every single day, we are seeing the horrors caused by Republicans’ oppression: women forced to stay pregnant and give birth when they don’t want to, patients denied prescriptions they need, a ten year old forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion after being raped, a woman experiencing a miscarriage left bleeding for ten days as providers weren’t clear if they could treat her due to Republicans’ extreme bans.


“And all the while, Republicans have been trying to ignore the devastation they have caused.


“And even more cruelly: they have been trying to distract us. Telling us that what we’re seeing isn’t really happening.


“They have tried to say it won’t undermine birth control access, even as patients have been denied plan B.


“They have tried to say we don’t need to protect the right to travel for abortion care, even as some Republicans are already writing, and introducing, bills to take that right away.


“They have even tried to say their extreme bans won’t undermine care for ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages, even as providers have already been forced to change the standard of care because of Republicans’ dangerous abortion bans, making them perform riskier, invasive surgeries than would otherwise be necessary, or even sit on their hands until patients’ vital signs drop before they can do what they know is needed to save lives.


“It is unconscionable. And despite what we have heard from Republicans—it is happening right now in our country.


“And, I know I’m not the only one who is entirely unconvinced by Republicans’ words about wanting to support women and families.


“I’m skeptical when one Republican Senator says: ‘We have to start thinking in terms of some of these things …. to be more supportive of families and mothers.’


“I’m skeptical when another says: ‘It’s not just a matter of saying, ‘We are pro-life.’ It’s a matter, then, of promoting and allowing these people who are making very difficult decisions with their lives to make sure we can help.’

“And I was, frankly, surprised when just last week, at a hearing I chaired on how the Dobbs’ decision threatens women’s health, the junior Senator from Kansas claimed he believes ‘family planning opportunities need to be expanded’ and he even promised to continue supporting ‘robust funding.’

“Well here is their chance to match their rhetoric with action.


“Because Senator Smith, Senator Warren, and I have a bill right here that would do exactly that.

“In fact, it is even called the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act.


“I know Senator Smith cares a lot about this, and while she can’t be here right now due to COVID, I want to thank her for her leadership, and explain what this bill she drafted does.


“M. President, this bill is really simple—almost couldn’t be simpler!


“It takes our nation’s long-standing family planning program, Title X, and it provides the strong, mandatory funding Title X needs to support patients across the country.


“That’s it. So easy. So straightforward.

“Now, if Republicans really mean what they are saying, if they are really serious about expanding access to family planning, well then, there’s just no reason we can’t get this done right now.

“After all, we are talking about a program with a long history of bipartisan support.


“We’re talking about a program that was signed into law by a Republican—President Nixon—way back in 1970.


“We are talking about a program that helps patients get the birth control they need, the STI testing and treatment they count on, the cervical and breast cancer screenings that could save their life, and the support they need to plan a family on their own terms.


“This isn’t just the popular thing to do—though helping patients get the birth control they need is overwhelmingly a popular thing to do— it’s the right thing to do.


“So, let’s get it done.


“This should not be controversial. It simply expands our nation’s long-standing family planning program.

“A program, I should note, that we included in our bipartisan funding bill earlier this year.


“Now just a couple months ago, Republicans were adamantly against increases for this program but now they are apparently changing their tune and claiming they want to support families, they want to expand family planning services, they want to do exactly the thing this bill would do.

“Unless of course, they don’t mean it, and it’s just empty rhetoric—just another desperate Republican distraction from the reality they have ushered in.


“So, right now, Republicans will have the chance to go on the record on whether they actually support family planning, whether they actually want to help people get birth control.


“And believe me, the same people Republicans have been trying to ignore—the same people who are having their health care undermined, their life plans upended, their control over their own bodies taken away—are going to be watching closely.


“And they are not going to forget how much—or rather how little—Republicans’ promises are worth.”