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.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Supportes of employer-paid birth control rally in front of the Supreme Court before the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
June 30, 2014, 8:45 a.m.

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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