Nadler acts to counter Hobby Lobby ruling

The fallout from the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception case reached all the way from Washington DC to Brooklyn as House Democrats started forming a response strategy.

US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (Manhattan-parts of Bensonhurst) said that he and US Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) will introduce legislation that would prohibit for-profit companies from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to override women’s access to contraception.

The RFRA, a law passed in 1993 and signed into law by Bill Clinton to http://www.justice.gov/jmd/ls/legislative_histories/pl103-141/pl103-141.html protect the religious freedom of Americans, was used as the basis of the lawsuit filed by the owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and craft stores with 13,000 employees. The owners argued that the Affordable Care Act mandate to provide health insurance coverage for contraception violated their religious freedom under the RFRA. The owners, David and Barbara Green, who describe themselves as devout Christians, objected to providing coverage for four medications and devices to terminate pregnancies.

In a 5-4 decision issued on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Greens were not obligated to provide the coverage. The ruling applies to “closely held” companies; businesses that are owned by an individual or companies in which 50 percent or more of the firm is held by an individual or a family

The fact that the RFRA was used as the basis for the court case rankled Nadler, who was an original supporter of the religious freedom law.

“Congress never intended RFRA to be used by employers as a means of interfering with private health care choices of their employees,” Nadler said in a statement he issued jointly with DeGette. “The law kept in place the core principle that religion does not excuse for-profit businesses from complying with our nation’s laws. It is now up to congress to ensure that the court’s ruling does not interfere with access to critical preventive health care services.”

The House is currently not in session, but DeGette and Nadler have begun working with their colleagues to draft legislative language and said they plan to introduce bills as soon as possible.

“While the majority opinion misunderstands the importance of contraceptive coverage for women’s health when Justice (Samuel) Alito wrote that their decision would have ‘precisely zero’ impact, we believe congress can and should take action,” the statement from the lawmakers read. “In reality, women working for many for-profit corporations will now need new insurance coverage for contraception, and we can ensure they can still access this essential health service through legislation.”

But supporters of the court’s decision continued to speak out in favor of it.

“It was a very good decision,” Mike Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday. “It was a victory for religious freedom.”

The negative reaction to the ruling, according to Long, “is typical left-wing ‘the sky is falling’ mentality.”

Long, who lives in Bay Ridge, said the decision “had a very narrow focus” that dealt only with the issue at hand. “Let’s remember that the owners of Hobby Lobby pay for almost all forms of birth control. They only object to four elements terminating a pregnancy. Terminating a pregnancy is not the same as contraception,” he told the Eagle.

“The left-wing is talking about how there’s a ‘war on women.’ But if you look at the news coverage of the decision, you’ll see that many of the people who are happy with what the court did are young women,” Long said.

Long pointed out that many of the demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on Monday were young, pro-life women carrying signs reading “Women in control don’t want bosses’ handouts.”