Friday, October 3, 2014

WA Senate Democrats announce plan to override Hobby Lobby decision

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 4:48 PM

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent
Unhappy with the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision in June? A group of Washington state senators said they've found a way to neutralize the court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate in Washington state.

In an announcement outside a Hobby Lobby store in Seattle on Thursday, five state senate Democrats – Sen. Karen Keiser, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, David Frockt, Kevin Ranker and Jamie Pedersen — introduced a proposal that would make access to birth control a fundamental employee right, regardless of an employer's objection to providing contraceptive coverage on religious grounds. Citing the Washington Law Against Discrimination, the proposed bill would give women recourse to take legal action if their employer-based health insurance plan won't pay for their birth control. 

"If you are working for an employer who treats one class of employees differently, and puts a burden on and barriers up to one class of employees...that's the definition of discrimination," Keiser, D-Kent, told the Inlander over the phone. Keiser said the senators have been working on this legislation since mid-July. They plan to introduce the bill at the start of the 2015 session. 

"There are very serious health and economic issues involved when you have unplanned pregnancies and unplanned births," Keiser said. "We have to remind people there's a reason birth control is important. Not only is it an individual right, it's really a way to have healthy families and kids.

We interviewed U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, about the Hobby Lobby case in April. After the Supreme Court's ruling in June, Murray spearheaded a bill to override the justices' decision, but the measure failed to garner enough votes to move forward.  

Of course, with the November election just weeks away, senate Democrats are hoping their latest proposal will draw voters to the polls.

"If we end up with an outcome that doesn't change what party is in the majority [in the Senate]," Keiser said, "we can finalize the proposed bill, but it will never become law under the Republican majority because, unfortunately, birth control is a partisan issue." 

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Deanna Pan

Deanna Pan is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers social justice, state politics and health care. In her cover stories, she's written about mass shooting survivors, NGRI patients and honey bees...