The Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports from yesterday's press conference on legislation, introduced by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, to undo last week's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling relieving many corporations of "Obamacare's" obligation to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans:
Senator Mark Udall joined women’s health advocates today to discuss his newest bill, which would effectively overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing “closely held” private companies, specifically craft store Hobby Lobby, to opt-out of employee health coverage that violates their religious beliefs.
“With up to 90 percent of American companies considered ‘closely held,’ the Hobby Lobby decision means that millions of working Americans’ access to crucial health care services may be threatened,” Udall said. “These corporations employ about half of all American workers. That means half of our bosses can now pick and choose which contraception and other health care services work best for our families.”
Udall’s bill, “The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” clarifies that the law the Supreme Court based their decision on — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — cannot be used to allow for-profit corporations to limit any legal health care service.
“The men and women who went to work for Hobby Lobby signed up to work at a craft store, not a religious organization,” Udall said. His bill would not impact the coverage exemptions already granted to some non-profit religious organizations like churches.
As the AP reports, Sen. Udall's response to the Hobby Lobby ruling comes in stark contrast to that of his Republican opponent Cory Gardner. Partially in hope of squelching Gardner's longtime support for the Personhood abortion bans, but now viewed in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, Gardner has called for birth control now available only by prescription to be purchasable over-the-counter. But as Udall notes, that's not a good deal for women compared to what they can get now–and still will, even after Hobby Lobby, from the majority of employers who will choose not to impose their religious views on their employees:
Democratic Sen Mark Udall is skeptical of his challenger's proposal to make birth control pills available over the counter, without a prescription.
Udall on Friday said paying retail prices for the pill could actually increase the cost of contraception. Currently, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to provide cost-free birth control to women. [Pols emphasis]
We assume Gardner doesn't consider cost-free birth control to be a priority, since he wants to repeal the law that makes it possible. But the reason the Affordable Care Act provided for cost-free birth control as guaranteed coverage was to ensure it is available to everyone–even to cash-strapped families who might otherwise make the choice to go without one month to make ends meet. In family planning terms, that can be a very costly choice.
Since neither Gardner's proposal nor Udall's legislation are going anywhere before this year's elections, the choice on display here is for the women of Colorado to decide this November. And despite Gardner's work to, in the words of one Republican consultant, "muddy it up enough to take it away from Udall," there remains a very distinct choice on this issue.