In the 5-4 decision last month, Hobby Lobby received an exemption for providing health care coverage for some emergency contraceptives. But the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act was introduced by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., to bypass the decision.
While the immediate Supreme Court decision was narrow in scope, applying only to a few contraceptives and one corporation, there is potential for much wider-ranging implications, said UNC law professor Joan Krause.
“It’s part of what Justice Ginsburg says in her dissent, which is, ‘wait a minute, this could pretty much exempt any for-profit (company) from complying with any requirement that they find religiously objectionable,’” Krause said.
Hobby Lobby was defined as a closely-held corporation, and if it is required to provide certain kinds of contraceptives, it would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The bill, introduced by Murray and Udall, would require employers to cover all health care facets guaranteed to their employees under federal law, including contraceptives, and includes an exemption for houses of worship and religious nonprofits.
The Hobby Lobby decision has tapped into issues of women’s rights as well as religious expression.
“At some point, the ability to exercise your religious beliefs may go up against someone else’s religious beliefs, or someone else’s other rights that they want to exercise,” Krause said.
Mary Schlegel, director for women’s health services at UNC Student Wellness, said she discussed the case recently with her colleague.
“We are discouraged to have to fight a lot of fights we thought were over, we thought were done,” she said.
All three female Supreme Court justices dissented from the majority.
Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for Central N.C., said she thinks they disapproved of the decision as women.
“This is a frightening process for healthcare for women,” she said. “The women sitting on the floor understood that.”
Krause said it may not be that straightforward, as the female justices were more liberal to begin with.
Schlegel said she thinks young people are paying attention to politics in light of decisions like the Hobby Lobby case that could affect women.
“I think maybe a lot of times people don’t think of themselves as a feminist,” she said. “But when you’re faced with all of these issues, it brings out your inner feminism.”?
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