Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Mark Udall fought back today against the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling with plans for legislation intended to restore the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act.
Joined by fellow Democrats from both chambers of Congress and women's rights groups, the senators urged Republicans to support the bill they have nicknamed "Not My Boss's Business Act."
"We are here to ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to healthcare," Murray, of Washington state, said, speaking at the Capitol. "I hope Republicans will join us to revoke this court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decision about their own health care and their own bodies."
It's an issue that Democrats hope will sway voters in the midterm elections. With their control of the Senate in jeopardy, Democrats are trying to energize and awaken liberal voters who tend to sit out congressional elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made clear that politics were at the center of the debate. He said he intends to bring the bill to a Senate vote as soon as next week, adding that anyone who opposes the measure faces the risk of being "treated unfavorably come November with the elections."
The bill, the Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act, mandates that employers cannot disrupt coverage for contraception or other health services that are guaranteed under federal law. It comes a week after the Supreme Court's controversial ruling that closely held for-profit companies can deny contraceptive coverage under their company health plans if it goes against a sincerely held religious belief.
Although the court issued a narrow ruling focused on contraception in the Hobby Lobby case, some Democratic leaders fear the decision sets a precedent that could allow employers to deny other health care coverage based on religious beliefs.
"If bosses can deny birth control, they can deny vaccines, HIV treatment or other basic health services for employees or their dependents," Murray said.
Colorado's Udall said women should never have to ask their bosses for a "permission slip" to access birth control or other critical health services. Udall, who is among the Democrats facing a tough re-election bid, has publicly criticized his Republican opponent for his voting record on birth control and abortion.
The bill is receiving strong Democratic support, with 35 senators signing onto the legislation.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said today's bill "protects the right of all Americans, men and women alike, to make decisions about their medical care in consultation with their doctor, not their boss."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D- Calif., who has championed women's rights throughout her career, called the Supreme Court's decision an "outrage" at this morning's news conference and threw her support behind the bill as a congressional fix.
"The court's majority has decided that corporations are entitled to more rights than individual Americans," Boxer said, calling the majority's ruling "ideological" and "political."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested that Democrats were simply trying to hold "show votes" to prepare for the November elections.
"We'd have a better chance of working our way through the bills that we need to pass if we cut out the show votes and didn't eat up time trying to score points for the fall election," McConnell said.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said she would be introducing companion legislation in the House, joined by fellow Democrats Jerrold Nadler and Louise Slaughter, both of New York, "to ensure that women in American get the health care that they need."
Sixty members have already signed on to co-sponsor the bill, she said.
Slaughter said the Supreme Court was "peddling" the country back to the 19 th century with its decision.
The members were joined today by women's rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, who thanked Congress for its decision to stand up for women.
"Bosses should stick to what they know best: the boardroom and the bottom line," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "Stay out of the bedroom and the exam room."