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Hobby Lobby on South Willow Street in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Seeking to upend Hobby Lobby court ruling, federal legislation crafted


Two New Hampshire Democrats announced Wednesday they had signed on to federal legislation that would upend the recent Hobby Lobby decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a for-profit corporation could deny coverage of some birth-control treatments based on its owners’ religious beliefs.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said she will join a coalition of senators in support of the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014. Shea-Porter said she had signed on as co-sponsor of the House version.

“In the 21st century, for-profit corporations should not be allowed to block employees’ access to critical preventive health services like birth control,” Shea-Porter said.

“Women, not their employers, should be in charge of decisions about their own health care,” Shaheen said.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the family-owned Hobby Lobby Inc. could deny employee health insurance coverage for certain forms of birth control that the company’s owners felt violated their religious beliefs.

It was the second Supreme Court ruling to challenge portions of Obamacare, and it brought condemnation from both Democrats and women’s health organizations.

The proposed legislation would exempt federally-mandated health services from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law the Supreme Court used to base its decision.

The legislation would explicitly prohibit owners of for-profit employers from using their personal religious beliefs to justify denial of employee coverage of any health service required by federal law.

Existing exemptions would continue for religious organizations such as churches and non-profit organizations with a religious affiliation such as hospitals and schools.

In a statement posted on the state of New Hamsphire’s website, Gov. Maggie Hassan praised Shaheen for co-sponsoring the bill and called on Congress to pass it.

“Company-provided health insurance is part of a worker’s compensation, not a gift,” Hassan said in the statement.

mhayward@unionleader.com

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