By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Kentucky’s Republican congressman praised Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations may opt out of a requirement to provide employees contraceptive coverage through insurance plans. Most of them used the news to criticize the Affordable Care Act as well as to hail the court’s ruling.
But two Democratic women seeking to replace a couple of those Republicans joined with Kentucky’s lone congressional Democrat saying the ruling is wrong and harmful to women.
The court ruled 5-4 in Burrell v. Hobby Lobby that a requirement under the Affordable Care Act requiring privately-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception services violates a federal law protecting religious freedom.
The majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito said the law’s requirement imposes a substantial burden on the companies’ religious freedom. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”
The requirement was challenged by two family-owned corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear,” said Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. “Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Act.”
But Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic opponent in the fall election, said the court “got it wrong today.”
“I support the right of all American women to have full access to contraception, and respect the exemption of churches from providing this service if it is against their teachings,” said Grimes. But Grimes said that exception shouldn’t apply to corporations.
Grimes has criticized some provisions of the law, but has steadfastly maintained she would not be in favor of repealing it because of the 420,000 or so Kentuckians who have enrolled in plans under the new law.
John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, called the ruling “an affront to women’s health.” He said the ruling puts “the personal religious beliefs of employers over the health care needs of their female employees. No one should come between a woman and he doctor – including her boss.”
Elisabeth Jensen, a Democrat running for congress in Kentucky’s Sixth District, pointed out that all three female justices opposed the majority opinion, saying it’s just one more indication for more women in congress. She also echoed critics of the court who complain corporations are not individual people whose rights are constitutionally protected.
She called the ruling “bad for women and bad for hardworking Kentucky families. Doesn’t the court understand corporations are not people and should not be entitled to the protections afforded individuals?”
The man Jensen wants to replace, Republican Rep. Andy Barr called the ruling “a historic victory for religious freedom in America.”
Barr said he remains “committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare with real healthcare reforms” which don’t infringe on constitutional rights.
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
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