July 11, 2014 — Our monthly quote roundup compiles notable comments from key stakeholders in women's health. In today's edition, we feature the response to the Supreme Court's rulings on major contraceptive coverage cases, Massachusetts' "buffer zone" law and more.
"Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), on proposed legislation designed to override the Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell by prohibiting employers from denying women coverage of preventive health services guaranteed under federal law (Pear, New York Times, 7/8). Although the Republican-controlled House is not expected to advance the legislation, Democrats hope that debate on the measures will help motivate voters who support reproductive rights to turn out in this fall's midterm election (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).
"Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees' bedrooms." -- NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, on the Hobby Lobby ruling (NARAL statement, 6/30). The high court's 5-4 decision said that closely held for-profit corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).
"After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141)] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the [Supreme Court] now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position." -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent castigating the court's majority for a decision exempting a Christian college from having to comply with the federal contraceptive rules' accommodation for not-for-profit institutions (Politico, 7/3). Sotomayor found the decision troubling because the majority in the Hobby Lobby cases cited the accommodation as an example of how employees can access contraceptive coverage when their employers have religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).
"Instead of allowing Massachusetts to take this reasonable step to protect women accessing essential health care services, the Court is giving extremists freer rein to intimidate and harass women." -- Judith Lichtman, senior advisor at the National Partnership for Women & Families, on the high court's decision to strike down Massachusetts "buffer zone" law (National Partnership release, 6/26). The Supreme Court ruled that the law, which prohibited protesters from coming within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances, violated their First Amendment rights to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26).
"[T]here is no one single law that can offer the same kind of comprehensive protection that the buffer zone did, [but] we believe we can enhance a number of laws that, when combined together, can help provide safe access to [abortion] facilities." -- Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), on plans to propose a new law to protect abortion clinic access in compliance with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the "buffer zone" law (Los Angeles Times, 7/2). Abortion-rights opponents have already threatened legal action if the proposal becomes law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/10).
"[A]ccessing abortion is much more difficult in 2014 than it was in 2009." -- Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, on the impact of state laws restricting abortion rights (Vox, 7/8). Guttmacher reported this week that states passed fewer abortion restrictions in the first half of this year compared with the same time period in the past three years, but the slower pace was partly due to cyclical factors, such as legislatures not being in session (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).
"No longer will women in the Peace Corps ... have to face the indignity of being forced to pay for essential medical care with their own limited resources." -- Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup, on a provision in a 2015 State-Foreign Operations spending bill that would provide abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or life endangerment (The Hill, 6/24). The provision is included in both the House and Senate versions of the legislation and is not expected to face a challenge when the chambers combine their spending plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/25).