Wash. Lawmakers Plan Bill To Protect Contraceptive Access

October 6, 2014 — Washington state Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at protecting women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Seattle Times' "Healthcare Checkup" reports (Stiffler, "Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held 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).

Details of Legislation

The upcoming legislation, announced last week by five Democratic state senators, will argue that employers limiting access to no-cost contraceptives violates Washington state's anti-discrimination laws and declare that "barrier-free access to birth control remains a fundamental right" (Santos, Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).

Specifically, the state senators cited Initiative 120, a referendum approved by voters that protects abortion rights; the Washington Law Against Discrimination; and state Human Rights Commission enforcement provisions as the legal basis for their upcoming legislation ("Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

State Sen. Karen Keiser (D) said, "We're not really addressing the insurance issue in this, but we are addressing the issue of discrimination against women." She added, "The Hobby Lobby decision affects one class of people, one group, and all of them have female as their gender."

Timetable, Election Impact

The lawmakers said they plan to introduce the measure when the legislative session begins in 2015.

However, they noted that they do not expect the legislation to advance if Democrats do not pick up two seats and regain control of the state Senate in this fall's elections. They noted that Republican lawmakers earlier this year blocked the passage of a bill (HB 2148) that would have required most health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services (Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).