Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today joined with a small business owner and women’s health advocates to call on the U.S. Supreme Court to protect women’s health in a case that will be heard before the Court next week. The case, Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, could allow for-profit companies to deny health insurance coverage to women for birth control and any essential, preventive health care service if the CEO or business has a moral objection. The Senator was joined today by Lisa Watson, owner of Cupcake Jones and Coco Allen who has been an employee of Cupcake Jones for four years.
“I believe it is out of bounds for a boss to make the health care decisions for their employees,” said Merkley. “Our bosses don’t belong in our bedrooms. Contraception is a part of basic essential health care for women and it should be a decision that women make with their doctors, not something that their boss decides for them. It’s time to stand up and say it’s not your boss’s business!”
Studies have shown that 70% of Americans believe that women should be able to make decisions about their reproductive health care without interference from politicians or their bosses. And 99% of women will use contraception at some point in their lives, whether for family planning or other medical reasons, and more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford contraceptive care.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies are required to cover preventive services for women without charging a copay. These preventive services include well women visits, domestic violence screening, and contraception. Under current law, there is a religious exemption for religiously oriented organizations so that they won’t have to pay or provide insurance coverage for these services to employees. The Supreme Court case that will be heard next week would allow all for-profit businesses to deny insurance coverage to women for birth control or any health care service that they have a moral objection to.
“It is ridiculous for me, as a small business owner, to restrict my employees health care choices because of my own personal beliefs,” said Lisa Watson, owner of Cupcake Jones in Portland, Oregon. “I believe that we should be treating birth control like any other preventive medical care.”
Senator Merkley emphasized that the case before the Court could jeopardize critical health care coverage for millions of working Americans, and result in an expansive intrusion into employees’ personal health insurance plans. It would give employers authority to deny services, while offering no protection for employees and families to receive the care they need—including maternity care, vaccines for children, blood transfusions and HIV/AIDS treatment. This giant loophole would dismantle critical protections and discriminate against at-risk populations.