Manchin, Casey, and Donnelly, all of whom DFLA endorsed in 2012, voted last Wednesday in favor of the procedural measure, which received 56 votes.
However, it failed to pass because 60 votes were needed to bring it to the floor for a final vote before handing it over to the House.
Initially sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill is an attempt to legislatively overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by exempting Obamacare from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
The Hobby Lobby ruling allows religious exemptions for businesses that do not want to pay for their employees’ birth control through their health insurance.
“This bill is unnecessary,” said Kristen Day, DFLA’s executive director. “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,” she added in the letter.
“Under it, women receive full and free coverage and employers’ consciences are protected—a win-win solution that pro-life Democrats should support.”
Day also noted that the bill would set a dangerous precedent.
“The principles behind [the legislation] have extremely troubling implications—including laying the groundwork for requiring employers to cover and fund procedures that everyone agrees are abortions,” she warned.
“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.”
“Conscience rights have long been protected through legislative actions and judicial rulings….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.”
“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,” the letter concluded.
But Manchin defended his vote as a “balance” between individual and corporate interests.
“Today, I voted in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that ruled for-profit companies can opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees because of religious beliefs,” Manchin noted in a press release last week.
“As Governor and U.S. Senator, I have always fought to protect the sincerely-held religious views of non-profit organizations, like soup kitchens, colleges, hospitals and similar non-profit organizations,” he declared. “However, for-profit corporations do not have the same legal privileges as non-profits, and therefore they should not have the same protections as non-profits recognized by law as being a religious organization.”
“This legislation strikes a balance between allowing non-profit organizations to hold onto their religious views while ensuring that Americans have access to safe, affordable and reliable preventative health benefits.”
“Nobody has been denied access to contraception. The Supreme Court...said that married women and unmarried women have a right to access to contraception, and nothing’s changed,” Day told CNSNews on Monday.
Instead, she indicated that the ruling made allowances for “people who believe that some of these forms of contraception are abortifacients [and] businesses that don’t want to include those in their healthcare plan. The women can still get access to them for free. So, it’s been really misconstrued and misunderstood.”
“The bill has no chance of passing in the House. Obviously, it doesn’t have a chance of passing in the Senate either,” Day added. “I honestly think it’s been a waste of time.”
“I mean, we have really more important things that we should be working on, the fact that 40 million Americans still don’t even have health insurance….There are bigger problems out there than contraception.”