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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 28
More Hobby Lobby fallout - Senator Patty Murray leads drive to overrule SCOTUS on contraceptives
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More Hobby Lobby fallout - Senator Patty Murray leads drive to overrule SCOTUS on contraceptives

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Washington's Senator Patty Murray is leading an effort by Congressional Democrats to override the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

In its June 30 ruling, the Supreme Court said that some for-profit corporations may claim a First Amendment religious exemption from the Affordable Car Act.

The federal rule requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage for female employees was unlawful, the court found, because it violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law says that the government 'shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion' unless the burden is 'the least restrictive means' to advance 'a compelling governmental interest.'

The court also ruled that a family-owned for-profit corporation has the same rights to 'the exercise of religion' as an individual would have.

Murray and her Democratic colleagues in the Senate want to ensure that women have access to coverage for birth control even if they work for businesses that have religious objections to contraception.

'Your health care decisions are not your boss's business,' Murray said in a statement. 'Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will.'

Her bill, co-authored by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive services, under the Affordable Care Act.

Murray and Udall were joined by 35 co-sponsors, including Washington's junior Senator Maria Cantwell.

Murray's bill criticizes the Supreme Court's majority opinion and overrides it by declaring that 'employers may not discriminate against their female employees' in coverage of preventive health services.

To this end, it provides that an employer 'shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service' where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. It also says this requirement shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The bill would not amend that law. It explicitly preserves federal rules that provide an exemption for churches and other houses of worship that have religious objections to providing coverage for some or all contraceptives.

In addition, the bill preserves an 'accommodation' devised by President Obama for nonprofit religious organizations, like colleges, hospitals, and charities that have religious objections.

The measure could be on the Senate floor as early as next week, Senate Democrats said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed to bring the measure up 'sooner rather than later,' and force opponents to vote on it before the current Senate work period ends in early August.

'This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous,' Reid said Wednesday in a Capitol Hill news conference just off the Senate floor. 'People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think they are going to be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.'

Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Diana Degette (D-CO), and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will introduce the companion bill in the House, but the legislation faces long odds in there, since it is controlled by anti-choice Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner described the Hobby Lobby decision last week as 'a victory for religious freedom.'

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