Udall defends women’s rights
Kudos to Sen. Mark Udall for his forthright response to the latest Supreme Court assault on the Constitution and women’s rights.
In a Denver Post editorial, Udall laid out the Democratic case against the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores decision by the Republican wing of the Supreme Court.
“In one majority opinion,” Udall wrote, “five male justices turned back the clock on decades of progress toward gender equality and dragged what used to be personal health choices about family planning out of doctors’ offices and into corporate boardrooms.”
Udall’s ire was raised by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby to grant executives of for-profit corporations the option of refusing to provide their employees contraception coverage through medical insurance, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), if it offends the religious beliefs of the corporate leadership.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held in Hobby Lobby that federal statutes guaranteeing religious freedom to “persons” apply equally to corporations.
As “persons,” those corporations’ religious liberty is “substantially burdened” by having to provide their employees with contraception against the religious principles of their owners, the court’s right-wing majority ruled.
The right to insurance coverage for contraception guaranteed women by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), was subordinated by the court’s unprecedented deference to the “beliefs” of the Hobby Lobby corporation.
The ruling further exempts “closely held corporations” — estimated to be up to 80 percent of all American corporations — from providing contraception services and devices to their female employees on religious grounds.
The decision also grants protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to corporate “persons,” ascribing to them the same religious protections previously reserved for individuals.
The constitutional implications of this decision have made the Hobby Lobby decree central to the Democratic 2014 election cycle.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Regan Page called the Hobby Lobby decision “a grim reminder of how much is at stake in this election.”
Page continued, “Nearly every Republican Senate candidate in the country supports radical measures that would block birth control and roll back women’s health care rights even further than today’s (Hobby Lobby] ruling.”
As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler explains, the Supreme Court found that protecting women’s rights to control their own reproductive decisions “isn’t a good enough reason for the government to force a business corporation … to include birth control in its insurance contrary to the business owner’s wishes.”
Sensing the outrage this decision is likely to provoke in young women, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was quick to proclaim, “If the Supreme Court will not protect women’s access to health care, then Democrats will.”
The most high-profile campaign in the country this year featuring the Hobby Lobby ruling is Mark Udall’s defense of his Senate seat against conservative Republican challenger Cory Gardner.
In contrast to Udall’s position on contraception and the right of women to choose when to bear children, Gardner is a career-long supporter of anti-abortion organizations and legislation to make most abortions illegal.
After twice supporting failed efforts to pass state constitutional amendments to declare that “personhood” begins at conception, Gardner has sought lately to distance himself from his anti-abortion, pro-fetal personhood legislative history as he moves toward the center to compete against Udall this election year.
On the Hobby Lobby case, however, Gardner lauds the Supreme Court for its “right decision” to deny women access to contraception if it offends their bosses.
Gardner seeks to placate women for their loss of insurance coverage by assuring them he would require the Food and Drug Administration “to move quickly to make oral contraceptives available to adults without a prescription.”
A poll commissioned last March by Planned Parenthood found more than 80 percent of women voters between the ages of 18 and 55 believe that prescription birth control should be covered by medical insurance with no additional cost to patients. Sixty-eight percent of them believe corporations should not be able to exempt themselves from providing contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.
The response of women voters to Udall’s plan to protect their reproductive freedom from the religious preferences of their bosses could have a profound effect on the 2016 election, as well as Udall’s re-election this year.
As Politico blogger James Hohmann characterized it, the Udall campaign “could prove the clearest test (in the country) this year of whether the Democrats’ efforts to highlight personhood and contraception will work as well (in 2014) as their ‘war on women’” campaign did in 2012.
Colorado women will answer that question in November.