After Hobby Lobby Decision, State Legislators Mobilize to Protect Employees’ Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services
“I’ve never been so fired up about a case before,” a friend recently wrote me, referring to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
My friend is not the only one fired up about the Hobby Lobby decision. According to a recent poll, more than 7 out of 10 U.S. women voters believe that corporations should not be allowed to opt out of a law when they feel it conflicts with their own religious beliefs. And in an interview with Katie Couric, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the Hobby Lobby dissent, said, “Contraceptive protection is something every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny…[Hobby Lobby] has no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them who don’t share that belief.”
The good news is that state legislators are beginning to take action in response to the disappointing decision. As my colleague Gretchen Borchelt recently told Politico, “There’s been a lot of buzz in the states since the [Hobby Lobby] decision because people are so outraged by it, and they want to make sure that women in their state aren’t left unprotected.”
Hobby Lobby involved the interpretation of a federal law, which means that the decision does not affect the 26 state “contraceptive equity” laws that currently require insurers to cover all forms of FDA-approved contraception if the plan covers prescription drugs generally. Minnesota and Ohio lawmakers are trying to pass contraceptive equity laws in their states to bring the total to 28.
Additionally, lawmakers in New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan and D.C. have introduced proactive legislation [PDF] which would ensure employees are not discriminated against based on their reproductive health decisions.
Other ideas state legislators are considering include increasing employee’s wages as a way to offset the cost of contraception or placing a penalty on companies who object to providing coverage and using that revenue to create a fund that would help cover contraception expenses. In New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman intends to introduce the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, which would require employers to notify current and prospective employees if they drop contraceptive coverage from employee health plans.
As a response to the blow dealt by the Supreme Court, state legislators are taking action and letting women know — they’ve got it covered.
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