The Senate will vote today on a bill that would override the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. The bill,introduced by Congressional Democrats last week, would restore the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate which required all employers to provide women with contraceptive coverage regardless of their religious views.
Dubbed the Not My Boss’s Business Act, the bill is in response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby last month which deemed the ACA contraceptive mandate a violation of religious liberty. The high court’s decision ruled that closely-held corporations with religious objections are not required to provide birth control coverage for employees. This means some women will be denied access to free contraceptives.
Infuriated by the decision, Democrats who have prioritized protecting women’s rights and providing Americans with access to such preventive care services have sought to reverse the ruling. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) led Senate efforts in challenging the ruling and introduced the rival bill last week.
“Ninety-nine percent of women – our sisters, daughters, friends, colleagues, and neighbors – will use some form of birth control in their lifetime, and strong majorities of Americans support the notion that women should be able to make their reproductive care decisions without interference from their employer,’’ Harkin wrote in a Senate announcement of the bill.
Under the bill, for-profit employers would be required to provide women with health insurance plans that include contraceptive coverage at no additional cost. The bill has received support from Democrats in both the House and Senate, and from women’s and reproductive organizations as well.
“The Supreme Court last week opened the door to a wide range of discrimination and denial of services,’’ Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund wrote in the announcement.“This bill would help close the door for denying contraception before more corporations can walk through it.’’
The proposed legislation would affect only those corporations made exempt from the contraception mandate by the Supreme Court ruling. Churches, places of worship, and religious colleges would remain exempt from the mandate.
“An employee may not share their employer’s religious beliefs,’’ Murray wrote. “Just because someone accepts a job does not mean that they have checked their rights to religious liberty at the office door. The 13,000 Hobby Lobby employees took a job to work at an arts and crafts store, not a church or synagogue.’’
The bill also serves to prevent employers from refusing other types of health care coverage such as vaccines, blood transfusions and HIV treatment which Democrats fear might also be challenged on moral or religious grounds.
“[The] Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,’’ Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent of the ruling last month.
To move forward, the bill will require 60 votes in favor of the legislation in Senate today. The vote is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. EST.
UPDATE: The bill was rejected by the Senate with 56 yea votes, 43 nay votes, and one no-vote. Sixty votes were required for the bill to proceed.
Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine joined Democrats in supporting the bill. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. Here’s the vote’s full roll call.