Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: Lawsuits Against Birth Control Benefit Continues, and Texas GOP Wants to Subsidize Businesses that Break the Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The federal government may be moving forward with the birth control benefit, but the real action in reproductive rights remains in the states.

On Friday the Obama administration announced its proposed revised rule governing the contraception mandate, but there’s no reason to think the political opposition to the mandate will change anytime soon. Just last week Michigan’s attorney general Bill Schuette filed a brief in support of Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan’s challenge to the mandate and the argument generally that the private, for-profit sector has religious rights in conflict to the mandate.

Meanwhile a federal judge in Missouri dismissed a challenge to the mandate by the Archdiocese of St. Louis on the grounds that they had rushed into court too early and needed to wait until any changes to the law are finalized.

In Mississippi the fate of the clinic’s sole abortion clinic hangs in the balance with the parties submitting final briefing to the court over whether the state’s TRAP law that is forcing the closure is unconstitutional and should be permanently blocked. Instead of arguing that closing the clinic would not create any significant hardship for the women of Mississippi, the state admits it in fact it will, but claims its forced closure of the clinic is really the fault of providers and patients.

Texas is close behind Mississippi in making access to reproductive health care all but impossible to get and now documents released to Rewire show that the Texas Department of State Health Services ignored public input asking it to reconsider or revise new abortion reporting requirements at the direction of one anti-choice lawmaker and a handful of his colleagues.

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Meanwhile Republicans in the state have suggested subsidizing businesses that ignore federal law and refuse to comply with the birth control benefit in Obamacare. The “Hobby Lobby” bill would essentially grant those businesses a exemption under Texas tax law that would match financial penalties imposed as a result of not complying with the mandate up to the total in taxes that business owes to Texas. The law appears fraught with constitutional problems, but as we’ve seen, that’s never stopped politicians on the right from passing bills anyways.

And just like conservatives will push obviously unconstitutional bills in the name of the Constitution, as Sheila Bapat notes, some of the most vociferous opponents to abortion rights and access are also opposed to economic policies that can help struggling families, like paid family leave. A fitting observation as we also celebrate the Family Medical Leave Act turning 20 this week.

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