Last year, one of the biggest developments in the national debate over conscience rights was the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contained a mandate requiring employers to cover twenty specific types of birth control in the insurance plans they purchased for their employees.
Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, objected to four of the twenty forms of birth control on the grounds that they could cause an abortion. As a result, they filed a lawsuit claiming that the mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court agreed with them in a 5-4 decision.
In response, a group of State Senators have introduced the Employee Reproductive Choice Act (SB 5026). The bill creates a state version of the mandate which the Supreme Court said could not be imposed by the federal government.
This bill would force every business in Washington to cover twenty specific forms of contraception in the insurance policies, including some that cause abortion.
It was sponsored by every Democrat Senator except Senators Hargrove and Sheldon. (For the past two years, Tim Sheldon has been caucusing with the Republicans).
Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the state likely has the authority to create such a mandate. Because Washington State does not have a RFRA, and the federal RFRA does not apply to state law, the federal protections are greater than what appear to exist at the state level.
While eighteen states have adopted a state version of RFRA that extends the higher level of protection state law as well, Washington State is not one of them.
Of course, the fact that Washington State could impose such a mandate does not mean that they should.
For the past three years, the Washington State House passed an Abortion Insurance Mandate requiring every private insurance policy to cover abortion. Each year the bill died in the Senate. Proponents of that mandate claimed it was necessary to ensure that women were not denied access to abortion because her employer’s unwillingness to pay for abortion insurance. However, in three years of debate, no one testified that an abortion had ever been denied or even delayed for lack of insurance.
At least hundreds of women communicated the fact that they wanted choice in the kind of insurance they purchased.
Arguments in support of this new mandate are equally tenuous.
The bill states that employers must be forced to pay for abortion inducing drugs because, “women with reliable access to contraceptive services have forty percent higher earnings than those who lack such access, and access to contraception can significantly increase a woman’s earning power and narrow the gender pay gap.”
All this time I’ve been telling my daughters that kindness, hard work, and good choices are going to make them successful in life. Maybe there really is a pill for that.
Fortunately, the prospects for this bill in the Senate do not appear to be strong. It has been assigned to the Senate Law & Justice committee which is chaired by Senator Mike Padden, who is not thought to be supportive of the proposal. A House companion bill was introduced yesterday (HB 1502).
Regardless of these bills’ success this year, this is yet another assault on conscience rights and a reminder of the continued need for vigilance.
The left in Washington State is working hard to create a work environment in which the willingness to participate in same-sex ceremonies and pay for abortion are preconditions to being in business.
They’re effectively creating the type of theocracy they claim to despise.
In this theocracy, government is god, the gay wedding is the worship service, and abortion is the sacrament. Provided you attend services and partake of the sacrament as often as god requires, you are welcome to participate in the marketplace. If not, they’ll cast you out until you repent.
But it’s for your own good.
To share your thoughts about this or any bill, you are encouraged to call your legislators through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.