Yesterday, a group of democratic senators introduced a landmark bill that, if approved, would require all federally funded hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. Titled "The Emergency Contraception Access and Education Act," this legislation targets hospitals with Medicare funding, and covers all FDA-approved emergency contraceptives, but does not apply to already-established pregnancies. It would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide information regarding this emergency contraception to pharmacists and other health care providers—in turn, spreading the knowledge that these options are available for victims to a greater audience. (The political obstacles for obtaining contraception and a lack of widespread education about available options—particularly in hotbed states—are closely intertwined, for both victims of sexual assault and the general public.)
This bill hits the floor at a time when the conversation surrounding both sexual abuse and the right to contraception is churning more furiously than ever. But in the same vein, the senators behind the act also recognize the political challenges ahead. "As we saw in the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, and as we've seen in state legislatures across the country, Republicans are intent on standing in the way of women and their ability to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own health care," Washington Senator Patty Murray told Time in a statement. "This means, now more than ever, it is our job to protect these kinds of decisions for women, their families, and particularly for survivors of sexual assault. Emergency contraception is a critical part of these family planning choices and it's time Republicans join us in supporting this safe and responsible means of preventing unintended pregnancies."
Less than two months out from midterm elections, the timing couldn't be more crucial, and Democrats know this—in wake of decisions like Hobby Lobby, both parties are aiming to use the contraception debate to draw female voters to the polls. It's further proof that it is essential that women recognize that with their reproductive rights at stake, voting—in addition to continuing the conversation—is crucial.