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Democrats Fail to “Fix” Hobby Lobby Decision

Mark Stricherz

Mark Stricherz - published on 07/17/14 - updated on 06/08/17

An attempt to protect poor women who cannot afford the IUD on their own.

Senate Democrats’ high-octane effort to reverse a recent high-court ruling on Obamacare’s contraception mandate drew a jab from a national fact-checking group Monday and came up short in the upper chamber Wednesday.

The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act would have overturned the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The 5-4 decision allows owners of closely-held corporations to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they provide four abortifacient procedures to their employees if the owners object on religious grounds. Those procedures include the intrauterine device and the morning-after pill, which prevent implantation of an embryo after conception.

Thirteen Democrats and one Republican spoke on the Senate floor in favor of S. 2578  in the three days leading up to the vote. They framed the legislation as necessary to restore access to birth control.

"This isn’t  a case of religious freedom. It’s a case that’s very focused on attempts to reduce access to contraception everywhere in society," Rep. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Catholic, said on the Senate floor.

Glenn Kessler, the author of the Washington Post’s "Fact-Checker" column, on Monday criticized as misleading the rhetoric that supporters of the bill used.

"Simply put, the Court ruling does not outlaw contraception. It doesn’t allow bosses to prevent women from seeking birth control, and it doesn’t take away a person’s religious freedom," Kessler wrote. "(T)he rhetoric needs to be firmly rooted in these objections. In many cases, Democratic rhetoric has been untethered from these basic facts."

Senate Republicans voiced similar arguments.

"When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions. Now, some on the other side would like to pretend otherwise," Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Democrats countered that low-wage female employees are unable to pay the $1,000 necessary for an intrauterine device, so workers at companies with religious owners would be at a disadvantage. But their objections did not carry the day.

Three Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with 53 senators who caucus with the Democrats for the bill, but they fell four votes shy of cutting off debate. Sixty votes in the 100-member chamber are needed to break a filibuster attempt.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the caucus, sponsored the legislation.

Despite the defeat, Senate Democratic leaders vowed to push the bill through the upper chamber despite its poor prospects in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. After the afternoon vote, they held a press conference outside the Senate floor chambers, near the Ohio clock where unaccompanied tourists are not permitted.

In back of them was a gaggle of 20-somethings bearing pink t-shirts from the nation’s leading abortion provider. "Planned Parenthood. Act. No matter what. Planned Parenthood Action Fund," the white letters of the shirt read.

Mark Stricherz is Washington bureau chief for The Colorado Observer and author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

ContraceptionPlanned ParenthoodPolitics
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