Democrats are pushing a new bill that would negate the Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case and require employers, regardless of religious beliefs, to cover employees’ contraceptives and other health services under the Affordable Care Act.
During a Wednesday news conference, lawmakers and women’s rights groups voiced concern that the Supreme Court decision might open the floodgates – allowing employers to bar other health-care services, such as vaccines, based on religious objections. While the new legislation maintains an exemption for religious organizations, it ensures that for-profit companies cannot refuse to comply with federal health-care requirements despite religious objections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., co-sponsor of the bill, skipped a scheduled fundraiser Wednesday in Denver with President Barack Obama in order to introduce the legislation and vote on upcoming nominations. Udall said it was critical that Congress pass the legislation to cover all women.
“Women should never have to ask their bosses for a permission slip to access common forms of birth control or other services,” he said. “This isn’t just about contraceptives and access to contraceptives; it’s about other essential medical access.”
Women’s-rights issues have continued to be at the forefront in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado. Last week, Udall’s campaign launched a website detailing that opponent Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., while rescinding support for a Colorado bill that would eliminate abortions and many birth controls, still supports a similar federal personhood bill.
While it’s unlikely the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act will pass the current Congress, Democrats are using it to showcase who supports birth-control coverage and who does not.
“Congress can fix this,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “It is every elected member’s responsibility to stand up, be counted, show they are on the side of women and women’s health.”
No Republicans are sponsoring the bill, but Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on it as early as next week.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and two New York representatives announced they are introducing a companion bill in the House.
“We are hopeful when our Republican colleagues in the House hear about this from their constituents they will sign on as sponsors,” DeGette said.
[email protected] Mary Bowerman is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.