Hobby Lobby Ruling Pits Senate Hopefuls in Alaska

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) drew the line between himself and the three Republicans who want his job: He co-sponsored legislation that would block the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

The three candidates in the GOP Senate primary — Dan Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller — don’t agree on much. However, they all support the Hobby Lobby ruling.

But Begich told The Hill more than 60,000 women who use birth control in Alaska would be hurt by the 5-4 Supreme Court decision and many of them are angry.

“I can tell you [during] my trip I just returned from in Alaska, this was the topic,” he said. “Women are talking about this issue as an impact to their lives, their livelihood and their economic security.”

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act on July 9.

They said it would restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court June 30, and protect coverage of other health services from employers who would let their beliefs guide which benefits are offered to workers.

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“After five justices decided that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women's access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” said Murray.

“This bicameral legislation will ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period. I hope Republicans will join us to revoke this court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decisions, about their own health care and their own bodies.”

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, spoke in favor of the Murray-Udall legislation, saying it would allow Congress to “fix the damage done” by the Supreme Court ruling.

Begich spoke out against the Hobby Lobby ruling almost the instant that it came down June 30.

“Bosses should not be able to prevent access to family planning and birth control for Alaska women. This is unacceptable,” Begich said. “As Alaskans, we don't want the government intruding into our lives and telling us how to make personal decisions.”

However, there are at least three Alaskans who disagreed with him that day. The trio of Republicans who want the GOP nomination to run against Begich didn’t waste any time speaking in support of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Dan Sullivan, leading the GOP Senate primary contenders, has done more than simply come out in favor of the Hobby Lobby side of the Supreme Court decision, and his opposition didn’t start the last Monday of June 2014

Sullivan tried to block the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when he was Alaska’s attorney general.

He joined with attorneys general from 20 other states challenging the constitutionality of the ACA before the Supreme Court.

Sullivan was doing the biding of Sean Parnell, the governor of Alaska.

“With the enactment of healthcare legislation, the federal government has reached well beyond the scope of its authority — into the lives and freedom of Alaskans,” said Parnell.

“This case is ultimately about the extent to which the federal government can exert power over the states. It has critical implications for the liberty interests of all American citizens. Alaska must join this important litigation.”

The Hobby Lobby ruling applies only to closely held businesses. The U.S. Supreme Court was adamant about that. And, not all contraceptive devices are covered by the decision. It only allows closely held businesses to opt out of coverage for emergency contraceptive pills, often called “morning after” pills, Plan B (levonorgestrel) and its generic equivalents, intrauterine devices (IUDs), ParaGard (copper IUD), Mirena and Skyla (levonorgestrel-releasing IUDs).

“While it is narrow in scope, the fact that business owners’ free exercise rights have been recognized is a step in the right direction,” said Joe Miller. “The Obama administration’s chilling assault on the free exercise guaranteed in the First Amendment is outrageous, and all people of good faith, regardless of ideology, should see this as a triumph for Constitutional liberty.”

Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, running behind Dan Sullivan but ahead of Miller in the latest voter polls, is a strong supporter of the Hobby Lobby decision.

“Religious freedom won. Obama, Reid, Begich and Pelosi lost,” said Tom Intorcio, communications director for the Treadwell for Alaska campaign.

“There would have been no need for the Hobby Lobby lawsuit if the Democrats and bureaucrats had taken the time to listen to the public and consult the Constitution before issuing this radical regulation,” he told PJ Media.

But, Begich insists Alaskan women whose employers decided not to offer insurance coverage for those contraceptive devices would be hurt by the court’s decision.

He said IMS Institute on Health Care Informatics showed that last year women and families saved an average of $269 on their out-of-pocket costs on birth control. For Alaska’s working families, $40 a month for birth control can make the difference between buying a tank of gas or groceries for the week, he said.

Begich also said Hobby Lobby was using religion to challenge the birth control coverage requirement in court and they can do it only because the Supreme Court has granted corporations religious “rights” under the constitution.

“I believe people, not corporations, have a right to practice their constitutional right to freedom of religion, but not at the expense of others,” said Begich.

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