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
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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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