Senate Hopes To Override Hobby Lobby: ‘Your Health Care Decisions Are Not Your Boss’s Business’


Democratic lawmakers in the Senate are preparing to introduce a piece of legislation to override the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby. The bill will require for-profit employers to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods for their workers, as stipulated under the Affordable Care Act. The Huffington Post reports that it may be introduced as early as Tuesday evening.

Last week, the Supreme Court determined that some for-profit companies may refuse coverage for certain types of contraception based on their religious beliefs. The two companies that brought the court challenge, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, object to emergency contraception and intrauterine devices (IUDs) based on the incorrect assertion that they’re abortifacients. Other companies have filed lawsuits against the government seeking to drop coverage for every form of birth control.

Spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO), the forthcoming legislation will prevent these businesses from dropping coverage by clarifying that no federal law permits for-profit companies to refuse to follow Obamacare’s contraception mandate. That will override the Supreme Court’s ruling that these businesses can invoke the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to get an exemption from this provision of the health law.

“Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business,” Murray told the New York Times on Tuesday. “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

Murray and Udall’s legislation will not amend or repeal RFRA, but rather make it clear that RFRA itself does not override for-profit companies’ obligation to comply with the Affordable Care Act. However, it’s possible that other lawmakers may eventually attempt to introduce a separate bill to make more changes to the religious liberty law itself. The Center for American Progress has released proposed amendment language to accomplish that, suggesting adding a section that stipulates the RFRA “does not authorize exemptions that discriminate against, impose costs on, or otherwise harm others, including those who may belong to other religions and/or adhere to other beliefs.”

The Obama administration has indicated that it supports legislative fixes to the recent Hobby Lobby decision. It’s also possible that the White House will find a governmental workaround that maintains women’s access to coverage by having insurers and third-party administrators foot the bill for contraception.

The proposed birth control legislation is being fast-tracked, so it won’t need to go through committee and could come to the Senate floor as early as next week. Although the measure has little chance of passing the GOP-controlled House, its supporters are hoping to force lawmakers to go on the record about whether they support preserving workers’ access to the full range of birth control options.