Thank you for your commitment to protect and support life at all stages. Our Party is stronger with diverse voices and Members, like you, who are willing to stand up for their convictions.As you know, the Senate recently failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to begin debate on S. 2578, Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act. We wanted to share our concerns with you should this issue come before the Senate again.
First and most important, this bill is unnecessary. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) already adopted a measure for religious non-profits that object to contraception coverage, whereby the insurer provides coverage directly to the employee, without co-pays, with no employer involvement. That regulation can easily accommodate for-profit close corporations, like Hobby Lobby, whose owners have a conflict of religious conscience in paying for drugs or devices that could cause abortion. As Justice Kennedy put it in his crucial opinion in the case, “[this] accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest [in ensuring employees free contraception coverage] but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.” Pro-life Democrats should vigorously support this accommodation, which is both reasonable and sensible for women and for conscience rights. Under it, women receive full and free coverage and employers’ consciences are protected—a win-win solution that pro-life Democrats should support.
Second, the principles behind S. 2578 have extremely troubling implications—including laying the groundwork for requiring employers to cover and fund procedures that everyone agrees are abortions. The bill’s rationale is that requiring a for-profit business to cover a health procedure in insurance is too distant a connection to be a burden on its owners’ conscience, and that refusing coverage improperly "imposes" on employees. That same logic would allow a requirement that employers cover and fund second-trimester abortions. The issue is not hypothetical. Using the above logic, the Washington State House passed a bill, the Reproductive Parity Act, to require all insurers who cover maternity care to also cover abortion. The bill did not pass the Washington State Senate, but laying this groundwork is an important goal for those who support abortion and public funding of abortion.
Conscience rights have long been protected through legislative actions and judicial rulings. The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling would affect only a small number of corporations, who, like Hobby Lobby are “closely held “corporations – owned by five or fewer people – and hold “sincere religious beliefs.” Especially given the established accommodation bypassing the employer, S. 2578 is unnecessary to solve the problem, and it would create precedent that should greatly concern pro-life Democrats.
Like you, we support affordable and accessible health care for all. S. 2578 does not address affordability or accessibility for the over 40 million Americans who do not have and cannot afford health insurance.
We hope you will consider our concerns and oppose this legislation—and support using the existing accommodation—should the Senate decide to bring this issue up again.