NEWSFLASH: Senate to Vote on Bill to Reverse Hobby Lobby

UPDATE: Minutes ago, the Senate voted 56-43 to reject the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, also known as the “Not My Boss’ Business Act.” It fell four votes short of the required 60 needed to pass the legislation.

The Senate will vote today on a bill intended to reverse the Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby ruling. The bill, entitled Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014, would “restore the original legal guarantee” in the Affordable Care Act that women’s contraception is covered by employer-provided health insurance plans.

The Hobby Lobby decision hinged on the five-justice majority’s reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects a person from a generally applicable law that substantially burdens the exercise of his or her religion by allowing them to opt out of participation. Not only did the court find that corporations are people, within the meaning of RFRA, but it claimed that “making contraception available to employees who would make their own reproductive decisions was a ‘substantial burden’ on the religious freedom of employers.”

The Senate bill, nicknamed the “Not My Boss’ Business Act”, would clarify that no federal law—including the RFRA—allows companies to opt out of the contraception mandate in the ACA. (It preserves the exemptions in the original ACA for houses of worship and religious nonprofits.)

Democratic Representatives in the House have introduced a companion bill that is now in committee; the Senate bill is getting a vote just a week after it was introduced because it was fast-tracked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The bill was spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and is strongly supported by the Obama Administration, which said in a statement,

The Administration believes that women should make personal health-care decisions for themselves, rather than their employers deciding for them.

Although it’s unlikely that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled house, it has a decent chance in the Senate, writes ThinkProgress,

Supporters argue that it’s still somewhat historic for national lawmakers to take up proactive pro-choice legislation in the midst of a political climate that has recently seen record-breaking levels of anti-abortion legislation across the country.

The act of voting on the bill has important political purposes, too, as ThinkProgress also observes:

The Hobby Lobby bill may force Republicans to go on the record about whether or not they actually support women’s access to birth control coverage, something that could help make reproductive rights a central focus of the upcoming midterm and presidential elections.

Stay tuned to see who in the Senate thinks contraceptive coverage is not a boss’s business.

Photo of U.S. Senate building by Flickr user Ron Cogswell under license from Creative Commons 2.0



Robin Jones Kerr is a journalism major and women’s studies minor at George Washington University, and an intern at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.