WASHINGTON’S Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is leading the charge in Congress to clarify the intent of federal law to protect access to reproductive health care, and other health services.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in its Hobby Lobby decision, ruled that closely held for-profit companies could invoke First Amendment religious protections to avoid paying for contraceptive coverage for employees.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House responded quickly to “ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period,” Murray said in a statement last week.
The well-founded fear is that employers will try to impose their beliefs to broaden the range of other health services for which they wish to deny benefits. This might include vaccines, blood transfusions or HIV treatment.
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The proposed Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act states and would reaffirm that federal laws, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, do not permit employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s reproductive health-care provisions and other health-benefit laws.
The bill does restate the exemption for religious groups and the accommodation for religious nonprofits.
The Supreme Court decision stunned the four dissenting justices with the breadth of the ruling. Their question was virtually, “What will come next?”
Republicans and other Democrats in the Senate and House need to step up to this legislation, and its basic protections. Does anyone really believe that employees surrender their religious beliefs and civic prerogatives to their employers?
Shuffle the demographics, ethnicities and roles a bit, and no doubt the GOP opponents would be outraged by some potential employer-employee scenarios.
Timely and appropriate legislation in Congress restates the history and intent of existing federal laws so it will be clear, even for the nation’s highest court.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).