By Jaimie Just, Reproductive Freedom Fellow
The Hobby Lobby decision that came down from the Supreme Court on June 30 leaves very few, on either side of the political spectrum, neutral or indifferent. While many of us are disappointed and angry following the decision to subject affordable access to all forms of contraceptives to the religious whims of a family-owned corporation, we are also ready to stand up and reject this affront to women and their families. We here at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington have heard from outraged citizens who see the ruling as having gone too far, as rolling back the clock to a time when a woman’s health care decisions were dictated by outside forces.
Decision-makers in our government have also expressed objections to employers’ interference in employees’ birth control and other health care decisions. In a press briefing following the June 30 decision, the White House stated that:
[…] the President believes that women should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their health care coverage, and that interference by their boss for whatever reason — based on their religious views or just their scientific opinion — is inappropriate.
The Senate Democrats agree with him and they have tried to reverse the Supreme Court’s grave blunder with the introduction of a new bill: S. 2578, commonly referred to as the Not My Boss’ Business Act.
A motion to debate S. 2578 – Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act was introduced today by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The bill needed 60 affirmative votes in order to advance. Unsurprisingly, given the polarized and politicized atmosphere surrounding the issue of women’s reproductive rights, the bill did not receive the “supermajority” of votes that would have allowed it to pass to the floor for debate. A 56-43 vote blocked the motion.
For pro-choice voters across the country, inaction and obstruction in the 113th Congress have become common, exasperating, themes. Even if S. 2578 had cleared the Senate, one can hardly imagine the anti-choice majority in the House ratifying it. With 36 U.S. Senate seats up for election this year, we do not expect to see many legislators crossing party lines on controversial issues such as this one, where contraceptive rights are pitted against calls for “religious liberty” – in refusing to cover or provide said contraceptives. This vote, strategically held during a mid-term election year, provides a tool for holding elected representatives accountable to their electorate. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI, currently serving out the late Daniel Inouye’s term) was absent from today’s vote. Perhaps he is trying to keep a low profile in the lead-up to Hawaii’s August 9th primary and Senate election scheduled for November 4th.
What can we do to stem the tide of anti-choice rhetoric that is slowly being transformed into law? The power in a democracy is supposed to reside in the hands of the people. When 61% of Americans and 65% of American women support the health care law’s requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control, how can we abide the increasingly blatant disregard for the desire of “the people” at almost every level of government?
Jaimie Just is a Reproductive Freedom Fellow at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.