Nineteen Democratic senators are calling on the Supreme Court to uphold the requirement under Obamacare that most employers cover contraception for female employees without co-pays in their health insurance plans.
The senators, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), on Tuesday filed an amicus brief on the upcoming Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases set to be heard late March, arguing that “secular, for-profit corporations” have no legal right to an exemption from the health care law’s birth control mandate.
Notably, the Democratic signatories were all in Congress and voted for the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which requires that laws posing a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion have a compelling governmental interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that interest. They argue that RFRA’s text and legislative history contradict the challengers’ claims that they should be exempt from the birth control rule because it runs afoul of RFRA.
“Exempting secular, for-profit corporations from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive-coverage requirement is inconsistent with RFRA’s legislative history and intent, and undermines the Affordable Care Act’s carefully crafted balance between a compelling governmental interest and individual free-exercise rights,” the senators write.
They add: “Congress could have explicitly included secular for-profit corporations in RFRA. It did not.”
Along with Murray, the signatories to the amicus brief are Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (MT), Barbara Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben Cardin (MD), Dick Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Tom Harkin (IA), Tim Johnson (SD), Patrick Leahy (VT), Carl Levin (MI), Ed Markey (MA), Bob Menendez (NJ), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Harry Reid (NV), Bernie Sanders (VT), Chuck Schumer (NY) and Ron Wyden (OR).
Obamacare’s birth control mandate exempts houses of worship and lets religious nonprofits (such as hospitals and charities) opt out of paying for the birth control, instead letting their employees get it directly from the insurer.