Senate Democrats are vowing to pass legislation to get around the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which shot down the Obama administration’s attempt to require all companies to provide all forms of contraception to their workers under Obamacare.
The court’s decision was a big blow to Democrats and the Obama administration, which sought to require companies to cover “morning after” pills and other methods of birth control that Hobby Lobby saw as providing tools for abortion. The owners of the company said doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
Immediately after the decision was handed down, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted that he would press for a legislative fix to the ruling.
“If the Supreme Court will not protect women’s access to health care, then Democrats will,” he said. “We will continue to fight to preserve women’s access to contraceptive coverage and keep bosses out of the examination room.”
In a separate statement, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said more explicitly that she would soon introduce legislation.
“Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will,” she said. “In the coming days I will work with my colleagues and the administration to protect this access, regardless of who signs your paycheck.”
Reid and Murray did not say what legislative remedy they might pursue. However, it’s possible Senate Democrats could try to respond to the case by creating a new federal program that gives women access to certain drugs and birth control devices that now are no longer required to be covered by closely-held companies.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the Hobby Lobby decision only gets to the issue of whether certain companies need to pay for certain contraceptive coverage. But the court does not consider whether the answer is “for the government to create an additional program.”
Creating a government-run health benefit may be the only realistic legislative answer for Democrats, as the Supreme Court’s decision upholds the 1993 law that says the government cannot place burdens on the exercise of freedom of religion.
Hobby Lobby argued throughout the case that it is providing its employees with most forms of birth control mandated by Obamacare. But Democrats nonetheless said the ruling is an attack on women that puts companies in between women and their doctors.
“The bottom line is that today’s decision is wrong for women,” Reid said. “Your boss should never be able to make your health care decisions for you.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling the ruling “outrageous,” and said it sets a precedent of letting companies pick and choose which laws to follow. She also argued that the ruling violates the religious rights of employees.
“Allowing employers and CEOs to limit the health care available to employees is a gross violation of their workers’ religious rights,” she said.