WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) voted Wednesday to advance legislation he cosponsored to restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. The bill was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last month in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which declared that a closely held corporation may choose to deny its female employees insurance coverage for contraception that its owners find religiously objectionable.

The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act would restore the original legal requirement guaranteeing women access to contraceptive coverage through their employment-based insurance plans. The bill would also protect coverage of other critical health services – such as vaccines, blood transfusions, and HIV treatment – from employer interference. The legislation was blocked Wednesday by a Republican filibuster.

“A woman’s decisions about birth control should be made in a doctor’s office, not a boardroom,” Senator Coons said. “Contraceptive care is a basic preventative health service that should be accessible to any woman who needs it, regardless of her employer. That a corporation should be able to deny its female employees basic health care on religious grounds is, frankly, absurd, and sets a dangerous precedent that could impact a wide array of health services.” 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby fundamentally discriminates against women – particularly those who lack the financial means to pay for contraceptive care out of pocket,” the Senator continued. “This bill would have restored the critical protections for women’s health stripped away by the Supreme Court, and prevented corporations from interfering with their employees’ personal health choices. I’m deeply disappointed that my Republican colleagues have chosen the religious views of a small minority of business owners over the rights of millions of women to affordable, comprehensive health care. Religious freedom should not be a tool for discrimination in our society.”

The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) last week. The bill prevents employers from interfering in their employees’ decisions about contraception and other health services by:

  • Banning for-profit employers from refusing to cover any health service – including contraceptive care – guaranteed to their employees and dependents under federal law.
  • Barring future statutory challenges to employees’ access to health care, including under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The bill leaves intact the existing exemption for houses of worship and the accommodation for religious non-profits. The full text of the legislation is available here: http://1.usa.gov/1mOCymP