Democrats in the House and Senate proposed legislation this week that could lead to criminal penalties — including jail time — for failing to provide a full range of contraceptive services for their employees.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday introduced the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act. The bill is a response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which said closely held companies cannot be forced to provide abortifacients to employees under Obamacare if doing so goes against their religious beliefs.
Despite the relatively narrow ruling, Democrats roundly criticized that verdict as a broad assault against women’s access to contraceptives. The Democratic bill would essentially force all companies to adhere to the contraceptive requirement as described both in the Obamacare law and related regulations.
It would also enforce this requirement through the threat of penalties on health plan sponsors, group health plans, and health insurance carriers.
The bill calls for possible penalties under three areas of U.S. law, including criminal penalties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Specifically, it calls for penalties under a section of ERISA that calls for a fine of no more than $100,000 and a prison term of not more than 10 years for possible violations.
It also calls for much smaller penalties under the Public Health Service Act and the IRS Code, which call for penalties of $100 a day for each person affected by a violation.
Democratic supporters of the bill said it’s needed to reverse a decision made by a narrow majority of the Supreme Court.
“After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” Murray said.
Read the text of the Democrats’ legislative response to the Hobby Lobby case here: