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Health Care

Obamacare Allies Plan Next Steps for the Post-Hobby Lobby World

Women’s health organizations are responding to the Supreme Court decision with a focus on Congress and the midterms.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Following a string of Supreme Court losses, the reproductive-rights movement and its legislative allies are making plans they hope will help them to regain the lost ground.

Job one: Turn Court losses into campaign victories.

In November's midterm elections, reproductive-rights organizers say they plan to make the Court's Hobby Lobby decision a major issue in close elections, calling it a winning issue for their candidates.

 

Monday's decision weakened the Affordable Care Act's mandate that had compelled employers to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. A Reuters/Ipsos poll out just before the Supreme Court decision found that 53 percent of Americans oppose an employer being able to choose what types of contraception to cover based on their religious beliefs.

"This will be a main conversation point in 2014," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "We will continue to work so that every voter in all these key races knows where their leader stands on this key issue—it's part a matter of health care, and part a matter of trust."

A specific campaign strategy is still being ironed out. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, however, reproductive rights' groups are protesting the decision—and promising to attack the politicians who support it.

"Today's decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn't discrimination," Hogue said. "We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable."

Even before the November elections, advocates say they plan to work with Congress for a legislative counter to the weakening of contraception access dealt by the Court.

"We'll be working both with Congress, the administration, and state legislatures to restore women's benefits in every possible way," said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood.

Senate Democrats are reportedly planning a response to the Hobby Lobby decision, with statements from top lawmakers indicating a legislative fix is already in the works.

"If the Supreme Court will not protect women's access to health care, then Democrats will," said Majority Leader Harry Reid. "We will continue to fight to preserve women's access to contraceptive coverage and keep bosses out of the examination room."

"Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will," said Sen. Patty Murray. "In the coming days I will work with my colleagues and the Administration to protect this access, regardless of who signs your paycheck."

But without a dramatic shift of power in the House, Republican leadership would have no trouble blocking a bill aimed at defending the ACA's contraception mandate.

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Hobby Lobby to weaken that mandate. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court said that closely held corporations—such as plaintiffs Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood—cannot be required to provide contraception to their employees if it violates their religious beliefs.

The Hobby Lobby decision followed the Court's unanimous decision Thursday to strike down a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot protest "buffer zone" around abortion clinics, to protect the public and women's safety. The Court ruled that the restriction violated free speech.

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