DeGette, Slaughter, and Nadler Introduce Legislation in Response to Hobby Lobby Decision
WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), co-Chairs of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a veteran member of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the leaders in the fight for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, will introduce legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Burwell. The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014 would explicitly prohibit for-profit employers that maintain a group health plan for its employees from using religious beliefs to deny employees coverage of contraception or any other vital health service required by federal law. The bill exempts federally mandated health services from RFRA while keeping in place the existing exemption for religious employers (e.g., houses of worship) and accommodation of religious non-profits who do not wish to provide contraceptives. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) are introducing companion legislation in the Senate.
“This bill will ensure that employee access to critical health services is not at the mercy of their bosses’ religious beliefs,” said Reps. DeGette, Slaughter, and Nadler. “Congress never intended to allow corporate employers to block employee access to critical preventive services like birth control. We hope that our colleagues will join us in acting quickly to correct the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Our bill simply protects employees’ rights to all federally mandated health services, including contraception. A woman’s private medical decisions should be between her, her doctor, and whomever else she wishes to consult – they should not be subject to approval by politicians, Supreme Court justices, or bosses.”
“This critical legislation will protect women’s health care services guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and safeguard their rights,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. “Women have worked for and earned the right to have their health needs covered—just as men do. This legislation makes it unmistakably clear that businesses, in the name of religion, can neither discriminate against their female employees nor impose their religious beliefs on them. Bosses should stick to what they know best—the board room and the bottom line—and stay out of the bedroom and exam room.”
"Last week, we heard a collective gasp 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 in the Hobby Lobby decision," said Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Today, we hear those gasps turn to cheers as we see champions in Congress move to right this wrong. Ninety-nine percent of American women use some form a of birth control in our lifetimes, and all medical experts agree that these remedies should be included in comprehensive healthcare. Anything less than this amounts to discrimination against women in the workplace. If there's one thing we can agree upon more than the idea that politicians aren't equipped to decide for us how and when and with whom we have families, it's that our bosses are even less so. This bill is the first step in making sure those personal healthcare decision stay where they belong -- in the hands of the women whose lives are affected."
“With this bill, Congress can begin to fix the damage done by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow for-profit corporations to deny their employees birth control coverage. The Supreme Court last week opened the door to a wide range of discrimination and denial of services. This bill would help close the door for denying contraception before more corporations can walk through it," said Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "As the nation's leading advocate for women’s reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to making sure women can get the no-copay birth control benefit that we and others fought so hard to pass and protect. No woman should lose access to birth control because her boss doesn't approve of it.”
The contraceptive coverage provision of the ACA has been a success in increasing access to this critical health service for women. As of 2013, 27 million women were covered by this new requirement. Twenty-four million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled with no copayment in 2013 than in 2012, and women have saved $483 million in out of-pocket costs for oral contraceptives.
Ninety-nine percent of sexually-active women use birth control at least once in their lifetimes, and the Centers for Disease Control declared it one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century. While the most common reason women use contraception is to prevent pregnancy, 58 percent of oral contraceptive users cite non-contraceptive health benefits as reasons for using the pill. Fourteen percent of birth control pill users, more than 1,500,000 women, rely on the birth control pills for only non-contraceptive purposes.