Senate Republicans block effort to reverse Hobby Lobby decision

Democrats fall just short of necessary votes to advance legislation aimed at requiring for-profit companies to comply with birth control mandate in Affordable Care Act.
by Chris Casteel Published: July 16, 2014
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photo - This photo taken June 30, 2014, shows demonstrators reacting outside the Supreme Court in Washington after hearing the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
This photo taken June 30, 2014, shows demonstrators reacting outside the Supreme Court in Washington after hearing the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Senate Republicans blocked an effort Wednesday to reverse the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows some for-profit companies to deny health insurance coverage for birth control.

Democrats needed 60 votes to consider legislation that would protect the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act but got 56. Only three Republicans — two of them women — voted to advance the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed to try again later this year to get the bill up for debate.

The high court’s decision June 30 came in a case involving Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based chain of craft stores, and two other companies. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that closely held, for-profit corporations were covered by a 1993 law aimed at protecting the free exercise of religion and that the birth control mandate was an improper burden on the faith of Hobby Lobby’s owners.

“What happens when a CEO’s religious views are imposed on the real life of a working woman?” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Women will have to make medical choices based on those religious views, he said.

Republicans countered that the Hobby Lobby decision wouldn’t limit women’s access to birth control.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, called the Democrats’ arguments “a cynical attack on truth” and said birth control pills were widely available and cheap, often funded by federal money. He said it was “morally wrong” to force people to pay for something that violates their religious beliefs.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday morning contradicting Coburn’s position, saying insurance coverage “removes cost as a barrier to its use.”

“One study found that in 2013, the year the coverage requirement started, utilization increased and women saved $483 million,” the White House said.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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