Merkley bill targets Hobby Lobby court ruling

Would restore workers' access to birth control

WASHINGTON - Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., fought back against last week's Supreme Court decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby by announcing Wednesday that he is cosponsoring legislation that would restore employees' access to birth control coverage.

"It's unacceptable that the Supreme Court has put contraceptive coverage in jeopardy for millions of women, and this bill will put women back in control of their own health care," Merkley said.

"The Supreme Court may not get it, but we do, and we're going to keep fighting to ensure that bosses and CEOs can't dictate health care choices that belong between a woman and her doctor," the senator added.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that "closely held" for-profit corporations can deny coverage for female employees' contraception under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Merkley's bill would clarify that RFRA does not allow employers to deny coverage for a "specific health care item or service," including preventive services.

As many as 90 percent of all American employers are "closely held" corporations, and more than half of the American workforce is employed by businesses that fall into this category, the senator noted.

Merkley's news release said he has long been a champion for women's health and access to birth control.

As the speaker of the Oregon House in 2007, he championed passage of the Oregon Access to Birth Control Act.

In 2012, he spoke out on the Senate floor against the Blunt Amendment, a legislative amendment that, like the Hobby Lobby decision, would allow secular for-profit employers to pick and choose their employees' health coverage and deny coverage for birth control.

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