WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – Rep. Kathy Manning spent her morning Thursday pitching a bill in Congress to protect contraceptive rights then listened to the typical thrust-and-parry of debate before the ultimate moment she awaited: the vote of approval by the House of Representatives.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) talks about her contraception bill that passed the House of Representatives. (WGHP)

Manning, a Democrat from Greensboro who represents the 6th Congressional District, was the principal author of the Right to Contraception Act (HR 8373), which the House approved, 228-195-2. The issue now moves to the Senate, where a companion bill has been filed.

“I got to speak in the debate,” Manning said in an interview with WGHP, “and I sat and watched the entire debate because I wanted to support my colleagues, to hear what was going on on the other side, and of course, I wanted to watch that vote to see who we got to vote for the bill.”

None of the eight Republicans representing North Carolina supported the bill, but eight from the GOP caucus did, and two more, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Rep Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania), voted “present.”

The eight Republicans who supported the bill included the two members of the Jan. 6 Oversight Committee, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. The others were Nancy Mace, Fred Upton, Anthony Gonzalez John Katko and Brian Fitzpatrick.

Upton Gonzalez, Katko and Kinzinger all are retiring, and Cheney has been trailing in a primary against an opponent supported by former President Donald Trump.

Manning called Cheney’s support “remarkable” and said she has shown “extraordinary courage in standing up to the ridiculous politics of her party.”

Otherwise, she said, the lack of Republican support was “not the least bit unexpected but disappointing to American women because we know millions of American women use contraceptives.

“The statistic is that 96% of American women will use contraceptives at some point in their life. That includes women who are Democrats, women who are Republican, women who are independent and women who have no political affiliation and really don’t pay attention to politics.”

‘A false equivalence’

She said in her view the opposition was purely political. She said speakers during the debate “made up things that were not in the bill. Most of them who spoke in the debate, clearly most who spoke had not read the bill, not read the bill very carefully.

“They’re pushing fake science about how contraceptives actually work. The main argument that they are trying to make is that this is about abortion and not contraceptives. They are conflating abortion with preventing unintended pregnancy. It’s a false equivalence.”

WGHP reached out to spokespersons for 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), who is running in the 9th District that includes Randolph County, but they did not respond immediately to emails.

Budd also is the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate seat that Republican Richard Burr is vacating, and his Democratic opponent, Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the NC Supreme Court, did offer a statement.

“Congressman Budd’s vote against protecting access to contraception is just the latest reminder that he will stop at nothing to strip North Carolinians of our freedoms,” she said in an email. “Americans have a constitutional right to make decisions about their own bodies and families – without government interference – and the Senate should act swiftly to protect this fundamental freedom.”

Why the bill?

Manning filed the bill to codify the rights based on perceived threats in Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion in the court case that last month overturned Roe v. Wade and federal access to a legal abortion. Thomas in his concurrence suggested that the court should review decisions that authorized same-sex marriage and a woman’s access to contraception.

Manning’s bill sought to reinforce the case Thomas addressed – the 57-year-old case of Griswold v. State of Connecticut, which ensured that the Constitution protected the rights of women and couples to buy and use contraceptives. Before that, some states prohibited that right.

Her bill also followed votes in the House to support a federal right to an abortion and to ensure that same-sex couples could get a marriage license. There were 47 Republicans who voted in support of that bill – none of those representing North Carolina – but Manning’s bill did not draw similar support.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called the suggestion by Thomas that the decision should be reviewed as an example of the “fundamentals of privacy they [Republicans] want to erase.” She said there was a threat to “criminalize contraception” and eliminate private decisions about birth control.”

Manning and others supporting her bill had cited research that shows 96% of Americans support the right to contraception – birth control pills and devices often are used to treat other maladies endured by women – and the public sentiment that represents.

Manning said her bill creates a federal statutory right for individuals, for “families to have discussions with health care professionals … to provide them with birth-control pills. IUDs and emergency contraceptives,” such as the “morning-after pill.”

She said her bill prohibits states from passing laws to limit this access and allows civil suits against any state or government that attempts to do so.

What’s next?

A companion bill was filed in the Senate by Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and three others. The bill follows the outline for protections presented in Manning’s bill.

Manning said she had not talked to those sponsors but that she knew they were “great champions of women’s rights.” She said she would like to help in discussing this issue with senators.

“I would be delighted to work with my colleagues in Senate to explain to members … the importance of this bill. I’d like to talk about what it does and about what it doesn’t do.

“There’s a lot of misinformation being spread on the other side of the aisle.”