The Supreme Court decision that some companies may use religious objections to avoid a birth-control mandate under Obamacare is ramping up contentious women’s-rights issues in the state’s Senate race.
Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses had been required to provide contraceptives to employees or pay steep fines. Hobby Lobby and another small, family-owned business said the decision violated their families’ freedom to exercise religion. In the 5-4 decision Monday, the conservative-majority court ruled “closely held” companies can use freedom of religion as a basis for denying coverage of contraceptives that they equate with abortion.
Across the country, Democrats and women’s rights groups cited the decision as proof of a modern-day war on women. Many Republican’s hailed the decision as a win for religious freedom and another knock on Obamacare.
The decision also could be a prominent factor in the upcoming November elections, where women voters are seen as key. In the Colorado Senate race, women’s rights issues have been at the forefront, as ads sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D- Colo., have painted Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, as out of touch with women’s issues spanning from access to birth control to abortion.
Udall was quick to respond Monday in a statement slamming the decision.
“A woman’s personal health decision about choosing to use contraception and when to start a family should stay strictly between her and her doctor – not her boss,” Udall said. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision unacceptably takes these choices out of doctors’ offices and into the workplace.”
Gardner reiterated the need for over-the-counter birth control to cover any women affected, a move he first addressed in a Denver Post op-ed earlier this month.
“The court made the right decision today to protect religious liberty and the First Amendment,” Gardner said in a statement. “The Food and Drug Administration now needs to move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription.”
Gardner has tried largely to show that he’s adopting new stances on women’s rights issues. In March, he rescinded his support for a Colorado personhood initiative that would have laid the groundwork for banning abortions.
While the high court’s decision will have no effect on many women whose co-pays for contraceptives will still be covered by their organizations under the Affordable Care Act, Vicki Cowart, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ CEO and president, said some women may be on their own.
“This decision just takes a small group of women and says you don’t get the same treatment as the rest of the country because your boss doesn’t believe you should have access to contraceptives,” Cowart said.
The Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and voted on by the Senate. While the Senate is currently controlled by the Democrats, tight races across the country could switch the majority. Cowart said the court’s decision is a reminder for women how important the decision on who fills the Senate seat could be.
“I hope people draw the line between elections and control of the U.S. Senate, and who could end up in the Supreme Court,” Cowart said.
In Durango, Planned Parenthood saw 1,300 family-planning visits in 2013. Crowder said if women in the area have gaps in coverage because of the ruling, they will have access.
“We take Medicaid, we take insurance, we work with women who don’t have either,” Cowart said. “We will be here.”
email@example.com. Mary Bowerman is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.