News Law and Policy

Senate Blocks Bill to Address Contraception Access After ‘Hobby Lobby’

Nina Liss-Schultz

Democratic Senators failed to garner Republican support for the legislation, and it was blocked.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted against a bill to mitigate the Supreme Court’s June decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The legislation would have prohibited corporations from denying its employees coverage of contraceptives in insurance plans.

The bill, called the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, would have clarified that the religious preferences of employers do not justify the denial of access to health services guaranteed by federal law, such as in the Affordable Care Act.

In the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court based its decision largely on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which protects an individual’s right to practice their personally held beliefs. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), an author of the 1993 legislation, said Wednesday that the intention of RFRA was stretched by the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby ruling. “I can say with absolute certainty that the Supreme Court got the Hobby Lobby case dead wrong,” said Schumer before the vote. He noted that the act was never meant to justify the denial of contraceptive access to women by corporations.

“This bill is not only about birth control,” Schumer said, but about any kind of health service that could be denied for religious reasons, like blood transfusions, vaccines, and anti-depressants. The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would ensure that corporations do not use RFRA to deny insurance coverage of such health services.

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Democratic Senators failed to garner Republican support for the legislation, and it was blocked.

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