The Senate on Wednesday is expected to take up Democratic legislation to restore the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers cover all forms of birth control for employees. The court’s 5-4 ruling said businesses can use religious beliefs to opt out of the requirement.
“Women should call the shots when it comes to their health care decisions,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of the bill's lead sponsors. “Not their boss. Not their government. Not anyone else. Period.”
The “Not My Boss’s Business Act,” drafted by Democrats in both chambers, would ban employers from refusing to cover any health coverage – including contraceptive coverage — guaranteed to their employees and dependents under federal law. Existing exemptions from the birth control mandate for religious institutions and religious nonprofit organizations would remain.
Democrats say access to birth control is a overall women’s health issue, especially since many women use contraceptives for a series of health reasons in addition to preventing pregnancies.
The justices' ruling “was a gross assault on workers' rights, women's health and respect for women, singling out women's health for discrimination,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a news event Tuesday promoting the bill.
The measure may pass the Democratic-run Senate but stands little chance in the Republican-controlled House. But regardless of the outcome, it will serve as a key election-year talking point intended to rally Democratic voters.
Republicans have accused Democrats of distorting the facts around the court’s decision for political gain, making it falsely appear that employers can block female employes from gaining access on their own to birth control.
“Some women will be impacted by what their employer would like to do or not do, but not in the health care they seek but in just who's going to pay for that health care,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri. “It's the same circumstance that women were under before the Hobby Lobby case.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a move to try to counter the Democrats' portrayal that GOP support of the Supreme Court's decision is hurting women, said Tuesday he will introduce legislation later this week reaffirming that a business can't block a female employee from legally obtaining FDA-approved contraceptives.
“Instead of restricting Americans’ religious freedoms, we should preserve a woman’s ability to make contraceptive decisions for herself,” McConnell said. "That’s why we plan to introduce [this] legislation ... so there’s no disagreement on that fundamental point."
Democrats say the bill is meaningless because employers already can’t stop women from acquiring birth control on their own, adding that McConnell — not them — is the one playing politics with the issue.
“We're getting some strange commentary” from Republicans, said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a main sponsor of the House version of Murray's bill. “What they're saying is, you can go ahead and keep doing what you've been doing all these years. [That's] not good enough.”