Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) along with 35 of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate introduced a bill Thursday that would repeal the Trump Administration’s recent broadening of exemptions from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate for employers with religious and moral objections.
The “Protect Access to Birth Control Act” is brief, stating that the religious and moral exemptions “shall have no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rules had never taken effect.”
“President Trump wants to make birth control about ideology, but let’s be clear: for women and their families in the 21st century, birth control is about being healthy and financially secure—and that’s why Democrats are going to keep fighting back against his shameful attacks on women with this bill and any other way we can,” Sen. Murray said of the legislation.
Her colleague Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) claimed, “this Administration has continued to roll back women’s health and women’s rights. Women must have access to vital preventive health care, including birth control, and employers should not be allowed to cherry-pick essential benefits. This legislation protects women’s access to contraceptives and birth control, no matter who their boss is.”
Four Democrats plan to introduce similar legislation in the House. Both bills are unlikely to be brought to the floor by House and Senate Republicans.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently suing the Trump administration over the religious exemptions arguing that the rules violate the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by “authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care.”
The Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the elderly poor in the U.S., are finally beginning to see some relief along with other nonprofit religious organizations that had been involved in a five-year long lawsuit against the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.
Paying for or supporting the use of contraception is contrary to fundamental Catholic moral teaching. The Obama administration offered the groups an accommodation that would delegate the contraception coverage to a third party, but they objected that the process still left them complicit in the coverage. Their case had been remanded to appeals courts with direction from the Supreme Court that the Obama administration and the organizations work out a compromise.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with the Becket Fund representing the Little Sisters in court, called the exemptions a “victory for common sense.”
“The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war,” he said. “It was always ridiculous to claim you need nuns to give out contraceptives. This new rule shows that you don’t.”