Congress Wades Further Into Obamacare’s Contraception Debate

As the battle moves toward the Supreme Court, lawmakers gear up their efforts.

Orrin Hatch at 2011 CPAC meeting.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Jan. 28, 2014, 6:21 a.m.

Fif­teen Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of Con­gress are lob­by­ing the Su­preme Court to over­turn Obama­care’s con­tra­cep­tion man­date on grounds that it vi­ol­ates a law signed by Bill Clin­ton.

The 1993 Re­li­gious Free­dom Res­tor­a­tion Act aims to hold the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment re­spons­ible for pro­tect­ing re­li­gious freedoms when law­mak­ing and to strengthen in­di­vidu­als’ First Amend­ment rights to re­li­gious liberty.

“Re­li­gious free­dom should not be a polit­ic­al is­sue,” said Sen. Or­rin Hatch of Utah in a press re­lease. “It is one of our coun­try’s found­ing prin­ciples, and I’m hope­ful that the Su­preme Court will re­con­firm that our coun­try will not stand for for­cing one’s be­liefs onto oth­ers who may mor­ally ob­ject to them.”

The con­gres­sion­al co­ali­tion led by Hatch, the act’s primary Re­pub­lic­an spon­sor, filed the brief ahead of the Su­preme Court’s con­sid­er­a­tion of two cases brought by private, for-profit com­pan­ies with re­li­gious ob­jec­tions to of­fer­ing con­tra­cept­ive cov­er­age to em­ploy­ees. Hobby Lobby and Con­es­toga Wood are sched­uled to present their ar­gu­ments to the Court on March 25.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

But shortly after the Re­pub­lic­ans’ an­nounce­ment, 91 Demo­crat­ic mem­bers of Con­gress filed a counter brief with the Su­preme Court, ar­guing that con­tra­cept­ive cov­er­age among oth­er pre­vent­ive care meas­ures are “the least re­strict­ive means of ac­com­plish­ing Con­gress’ goal of en­sur­ing the ne­ces­sary health­care cov­er­age for wo­men.”

In the brief, the Demo­crats, led by House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi of Cali­for­nia, said the con­tra­cep­tion man­date does not re­quire cor­por­a­tions to aban­don their be­liefs, and rather, re­quires them to al­low em­ploy­ees to make their own de­cisions about their health.

This post was up­dated at 12:45 p.m. to in­clude the sub­sequent brief filed by the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al caucus.

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