POLITICS
07/14/2014 01:34 pm ET | Updated Jul 14, 2014

Major Doctors' Group Endorses Hobby Lobby Override Bill

A doctors' association representing 90 percent of board-certified U.S. gynecologists has endorsed Democrat-sponsored legislation to override the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby birth control decision.

The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, introduced last week in the House and Senate, would prevent for-profit companies from opting out of covering the full range of contraception for their employees. The bill would effectively override the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which said closely held corporations should be able to claim a religious exemption from having to cover contraceptives to which they morally object.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a professional physicians' association with more than 55,000 members, said in a statement last week that it supports the bill because "a woman’s boss has no role to play in her personal health care decisions."

“The value of family planning, including contraception, is clear," ACOG wrote. "It allows women to time and space their pregnancies, leading to more optimal health outcomes for mother and for baby. And it helps to prevent unintended pregnancy; in America, nearly one half of all pregnancies are unintended."

But the public benefits of contraception are useless if women cannot afford it, the group said.

“It is also essential that when an ob-gyn prescribes the appropriate contraceptive for each individual patient, he or she can trust that the patient will have access to that treatment option," wrote ACOG. "Restrictions to this access are an unnecessary, inappropriate impediment in the patient/physician relationship. By ensuring contraceptive coverage for workers insured under their employer-provided plan, this bill would put birth control within reach for more American women, regardless of their financial situation. This will improve the health of more women and families, and it will improve our overall health care system, as well."

Hobby Lobby, a craft supply store chain owned by evangelical Christians, sued the Obama administration over the rule in the Affordable Care Act requiring for-profit employers to cover the full range of contraception in their health plans at no cost to women. Hobby Lobby's owners object to four of the 20 methods of contraception the ACA requires -- two versions of the morning-after pill and two types of intrauterine device -- because it believes those methods are akin to abortion.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993, gives Hobby Lobby and other businesses a right to exercise religion that trumps federal insurance coverage requirements.

The Democrats' bill, which is expected to be up for a vote in the Senate as early as this week, would establish that no for-profit company has the right to opt out of federal law under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Only houses of worship and religious nonprofits, such as Catholic schools and hospitals, would be accommodated under the new bill.

The legislation has no Republican co-sponsors so far and is unlikely to get a vote in the GOP-controlled House. The conservative Family Research Council is urging lawmakers to oppose the bill.

"How can [Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)] and this bill’s supporters claim to be supporting women when they are directly opposing the sincerely held religious beliefs of so many American women?" the group wrote in a letter to its members on Friday.

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