Colorado Democrats lead charge to overturn Hobby Lobby decision


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]N THE WAKE of the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision to allow craft store Hobby Lobby to withhold coverage of certain kinds of birth control based on the private company’s religious objection, Colorado Democrats in Washington D.C. have rallied around a bill that would ban corporations from refusing to cover any health services or benefits ensured by federal law. The bill, co-authored by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, would apply to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate and thus effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives. Coloradans understand that women should never have to ask their bosses for a permission slip to access common forms of birth control or other critical health services,” Udall said in a release announcing the bill.

Udall isn’t the only Colorado Democrat up for re-election to put his name on what’s popularly known as the “Not My Boss’s Business Act” after the explosion of the twitter hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness decrying the Supreme Court decision. Rep. Diana Degette, who authored the nation’s first bubble bill designed to protect women entering reproductive health clinics, has committed to introducing the measure in the House.

“The idea that a Supreme Court decision by a 5-4 majority would leave millions of women without coverage while others are able to get it purely on the decision of a boss isn’t acceptable,” said Matt Inzeo, press secretary for DeGette.

Inzeo said the congresswoman was on the case from the moment the Supreme Court decision dropped and she had a chance to read through the majority opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, which relies heavily on The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Congress passed in the early 90s.

Degette called up Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who got RFRA passed all those years ago, because she had the distinct feeling that Alito’s interpretation of that law wasn’t what the authors had intended. Nadler agreed and will also be co-sponsoring the bill in the House.

“The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” is relatively simple in structure. It essentially says that employers, with limited exceptions for religious non-profits, cannot deny their employees coverage for any legal health service or procedure on the basis of RFRA. To that end, the measure is intended not just to address the direct outcome of the Hobby Lobby decision but also to prevent some of the broader consequences Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg worried about in her dissenting opinion — for example, that the decision could be interpreted to include exempt companies from covering care like vaccination, blood transfusion and antidepressant medication.

The bill was introduced yesterday and has been getting a lot of press and support on the Hill. Even so, politicos have already said the measure is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House. Inzeo is not so sure, pointing out the new bill already has 128 co-sponsors in the House.

Back in Colorado and battling for Sen. Mark Udall’s re-election in a tight race against Rep. Cory Gardner, who has already voiced his support for the Hobby Lobby decision, spokesman Chris Harris said the measure is worth raising regardless.

“Mark, and all lawmakers, have a responsibility to push the things they believe in. Mark believes in taking bosses out of these decisions,” Harris said.  “He hopes the House will take up this bill, but as we’ve seen with immigration reform and unemployment benefits, they continue to refuse to act and that’s something voters will reject.”


[photo by Light Brigading]