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Lawmakers are Drafting a Way Around Hobby Lobby Ruling

A Picture of Elliott Perez Elliott Perez
07/11/2014

Democratic lawmakers are not going to sit back and delve on the possible ramifications of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling for too long because they have already proposed legislation that would address the issues created by the June 30th ruling.

As a refresher, the Supreme Court returned a verdict on June 30 in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that ruled that for-profit corporations, with specific religious oppositions to providing and paying entirely for contraception for their employees, are exempt from doing so under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The immediate backlash from women’s organization, from organization foreshadowing the slippery slope that this ruling has created and the fact that the ruling basically says that a corporation can have the same type of religious oppositions and protections from those oppositions as an individual person rang loud and clear. Another argument made by lawmakers stated that the Justices misinterpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is supposed to protect employees from being unfairly treated because of their religious beliefs and not their employers or the companies.

Despite all of the noise, lawmakers got right down to business and have now proposed a new piece of legislation that would clarify, not amend, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) so that it does not allow for for-profit corporation to invoke an opposition under RFRA or any other federal law to get out of or be excused from parts of Obamacare, i.e. the contraception mandate.

The legislation does provide an exemption to houses of worship and religious non-profit companies. These exemptions were already a part of the Affordable Care Act however.

The new legislation is titled the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act and will be introduced in the Senate by Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO and will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Jerold Nadler (D-NY).

Representative Jerry Nadler, D-NY said that “The point of that law [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] was that we wanted the law to be used as a shield to protect people’s religious beliefs, not as a sword to impose somebody’s religious belief on somebody else.”

Barbara Boxer (CA) originally voted for the RFRA in 1993 and said, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was written for one reason—to protect employees’ freedom of religion. T he five Republican-appointed men on the Supreme Court decided in the Hobby Lobby case that the employer, the boss, has total power to deny critical medical care to employees. They turned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on its head.”

If this legislation passes, it would undo the Supreme Court’s ruling and would prohibit, by law, Hobby Lobby, a for-profit corporation, from using the RFRA to deny their employees contraception coverage in their healthcare policies.

A recent poll done in April 2014 by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation resulted in 61% of those surveyed supported the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act and 32% opposed the inclusion.

The survey also asked whether they still believed that contraception should be a required part of their employer-based healthcare coverage if their employer had a religious objection to contraception and 55% said that it should still be included in the coverage. 40% of those surveyed believed that their employers should not be required to pay for contraception if they had a religious objection to it.

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