Senate Democrats are poised to introduce legislation as early as Tuesday to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling which exempted for-profit corporations with religious owners from the Obamacare mandate to cover emergency contraceptives in their insurance plans.
The legislation will be sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO). According to a summary reviewed by TPM, it prohibits employers from refusing to provide health services, including contraception, to their employees if required by federal law. It clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the basis for the Supreme Court’s ruling against the mandate, and all other federal laws don’t permit businesses to opt out of the Obamacare requirement.
The legislation also puts the kibosh on legal challenges by religious nonprofits, like Wheaton College, instead declaring that the accommodation they’re provided under the law is sufficient to respect their religious liberties. (It lets them pass the cost on to the insurer or third party administrator if they object.) Houses of worship are exempt from the mandate.
This bill will restore the original legal guarantee that women have access to contraceptive coverage through their employment-based insurance plans and will protect coverage of other health services from employer objections as well, according to the summary.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives,” Udall, who faces a tough battle for reelection in November, said in a statement to TPM. “My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family.”
A Democratic Senate aide said Udall is committed to working with leadership to “bring this to the floor as quickly as possible.”
The Murray-Udall proposal stops short of amending RFRA — the 1993 law which says laws that substantially burden a person’s practice of religion must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest — to say it cannot be used as a shield if that harms others, as progressives had suggested.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday called the Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby “outrageous” and promised to bring up the Democrats’ legislative response for a vote in the near future.