“Women across the country and men are outraged by a decision by five Supreme Court justices that all of a sudden says your boss has an opportunity to decide for you what your health care choices are,” Sen. Patty Murray, the bill’s sponsor, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday.
“That outrage is being transmitted to everyone, and I think we have a very good chance of rewriting the law so that the justices can’t take away women’s ability to make their own health care choices.”
The text of Murray’s bill reads in part: “The purpose of this Act is to ensure that employers that provide health benefits to their employees cannot deny any specific health benefits, including contraception coverage, to any of their employees or the covered dependents of such employees entitled by Federal law to receive such coverage.”
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that under a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal government could not force some “closely held” corporations, including Hobby Lobby, owned by a Christian family, to provide insurance coverage for certain drugs and devices, including abortifacients, that violate the family’s religious beliefs.
“Well, the Supreme Court, in my opinion — the five justices turned the Freedom of Religion Act (sic) upside down in their interpretation,” Murray told MSNBC on Wednesday. “So what our legislation does is make it very affirmative that a CEO, a corporation, cannot interfere with their employees’ health care decisions.”
Murray said Congress previously has rewritten laws when the Supreme Court “interpreted those laws in a different way.”
“That’s what we’re doing with this legislation today,” she added.
Murray also mentioned that some people “are going to take this in a partisan way. That’s the way the country is.”
In fact, from President Obama on down, Democrats are pushing issues that they believe will bring liberal female voters to the polls in November. Birth control is one of those issues.
But according to Murray, “this is not a Democratic women’s issue. It is not just a Republican women’s issue. This is an issue that affects 99 percent of the women in this country who say they have or will use contraceptives.”
She said the Supreme Court ruling “has caused great confusion, disarray and an outrageous response…from people saying, who’s deciding? It used to be that me, my partner, my faith, my doctor made my health care decisions, and now you insert the guy who signs your paycheck into that decision? That is just outrageous.”
The text of Murray’s bill — the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” — states that “access to birth control has been directly connected to women’s economic success and ability to participate in society equally. Women with access to birth control are more likely to have higher educational achievement and career achievement, and to be paid higher wages.”
It also says: “Affordability has long been a barrier to women being able to use birth control and other preventive health services effectively.”
In a news release introducing the bill, Murray urged Republicans to “join us to revoke this court-ordered license to discriminate.”
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who co-sponsored the bill with Murray, bemoaned corporate intrusion into 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,” he said.
That same news release included response from leading liberal advocacy groups:
“No woman should lose access to birth control because her boss doesn’t approve of it,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, noted the “collective gasp” that went up across the country — “as Americans everywhere tried to make sense of five male Justices on the Supreme Court deciding that our bosses could have control over our birth control…Today, we hear those gasps turn to cheers as we see champions in Congress move to right this wrong.”
The Democrats’ legislation has no chance of passing a divided Congress, but it may serve as a useful fundraising tool.