July 15, 2014, 11:45 am
Senate Republicans to introduce rival bill on birth control coverage
By Ramsey Cox
Senate Republicans plan to offer their own legislation in response to the Supreme Court's ruling on the ObamaCare birth control mandate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans plan to put forward a bill that would ensure employers cannot prevent their employees from obtaining contraception.
“We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives," McConnell said. “There’s no disagreement on that fundamental point.”
The legislation appears to be an attempt by Senate Republicans to address an emotional political issue that Democrats have made central to their midterm election campaign.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that some closely held private companies cannot be required to offer birth control in their healthcare plans if they have religious objections, though the justices said they were open to an "accommodation" that could bypass those concerns.
While Republicans hailed the ruling as a victory for religious freedom, Democrats denounced it and are pushing legislation that would bar private employers from denying birth control in their health coverage plans.
On Wednesday, the Senate will hold the first procedural vote on S. 2578, a bill from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that takes on the ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
McConnell, who is facing a tough reelection fight against Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, accused Democrats of exaggerating the implications of the high court's decision.
“Democrats are just attempting to offer another false choice here,” McConnell said. “What we’re saying is that of course you can support both religious freedom and access to contraception.”
Democrats have pounced on the issue ahead of the November elections to try to fire up their base, and they are pushing changes to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that the high court cited in its decision.
“This case has unjustly singled out women’s healthcare services,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. “I don’t know a single healthcare provider who is dropping the coverage of Viagra — put the pieces together yourself. … I think that this decision discriminates against women.”