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Expect a Reproductive Rights Blitz in June

Now that Donald Trump said that he may try to ban some contraceptives—and then tried to walk it back—reproductive rights in its many facets is once again a hot topic. Axios got a scoop that a small group of Senate Democrats are working out the details of a series of bills relating to abortion, contraception, and IVF, among other related topics, and they plan to force Senate votes on them next month. The senators know the bills will never become law (because they have no chance of passing the House), but it will force Republican senators to go on the record with votes on the various bills. If a senator up for reelection votes against a bill that specifically legalizes all forms of contraception, including the "morning after" pill by name, he or she will be hearing about that vote until Nov. 5. If the senator votes against all the bills, the senator will be attacked as being thoroughly anti-woman.

Some senators who are involved aren't telling much. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said that the leadership plans some floor actions, but wouldn't give any details now. Sen. Ben Ray Lújan (D-NM) said: "I imagine that there'll be some more policy legislation that will be discussed—whether it's on the floor or through committee gatherings." Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said it is important for the Senate to debate a bill making it easier to access contraceptives. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, did confirm that he expects to use his power as chairman to push for abortion rights around the anniversary of the Dobbs decision (June 24, 2024).

The Senate isn't the only place where reproductive rights are hot. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D-CA), who is almost certainly going to run for governor of California in 2026, has created a new super PAC to help Joe Biden and herself. Her organization, Californians for Choice, will mobilize voters in neighboring Arizona and Nevada, specifically pro-choice voters. Both states may have initiatives to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution this fall. In addition, both states are swing states in the presidential election and both states have competitive Senate races.

The group will also work in several contested House districts in California. Kounalakis said: "I know that there is nothing more important for women's freedom than the ability to control our bodies. And like so many Californians, so many Americans, I've been in absolute shock about the possibility of a Trump administration with a MAGA Republican Congress that issues a national abortion ban." Here is the group's first ad.

While Kounalakis' campaign is nominally about the 2024 race, getting established now as a key spokeswoman on abortion rights will give her a leg up on other 2026 California gubernatorial candidates. (V)

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