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Politics

Begich Cosponsors Bill to Reverse Supreme Court Ruling

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Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, stating that closely-held companies do not have to pay for their employees’ birth control.   In response, a number of senators, including US Senator Mark Begich, are now working together to pass a bill that will make it illegal for a company to deny workers specific health benefits, like birth control.

Senator Begich is outraged at the Supreme Court’s decision.  However, he says the ruling also allowed room for Congress to fix the ruling which is why he’s cosponsoring the new bill.  It’s called “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” or the “Not My Boss’ Business Act” and just over 40 democrats are supporting it. 

Begich says he thinks the Supreme Court was misguided in allowing a corporation to decide what kind of birth control women can use.  The next question, he says, should be what’s stopping organizations there?

“When you think about this it was not only about this but it was also about many other things that could happen in the future. Because what happens if your boss doesn’t believe in vaccines-- that means they could tell you ‘we’re not going to provide those.’ Even if your insurance provides it, they illuminate it. This really has turned past laws upside down. There was a law in the 1970’s that made it very clear about your individual beliefs and what they’ve done is interpret that and say that corporations have now religious beliefs.”

Birth control is not only used for contraception, Begich says.  Polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, menstrual cramps and acne are among some medical conditions that are treated with birth control pills. 

Another huge factor Begich and his cosponsors looked at was economic.  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project states that a US hospital delivery costs $3,500 per stay.  That’s not including prenatal care or the 18 years after a child’s birth.  A month of birth control pills from Planned Parenthood costs $15. 

Begich says when he met with the President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards, that economic factor in Alaska was discussed.  He says there are 12,000 women in Alaska that are patients at Planned Parenthood and with the Supreme Court’s ruling birth control would be an out of pocket expense for them. 

“This is not only about health care, it’s an economic issue. Because the way that we designed the Affordable Care Act was to insure that this health care element would be part of your preventive care which means free. Now they have to pay for it. Which means an economic hardship for women.”

Begich says he doesn’t have an optimistic outlook on the bill's future on the floor of the Senate but he’s hoping to get republican support.

“You know in the past when it came to women and health care it was not a democrat and republican issue. This was about doing the right thing. For years, women paid higher premiums, they were not allowed health care because of preexisting conditions and the Affordable Care Act got rid of those discriminatory issues. On top of that we insure that birth control would be free. 60,000 Alaskans would be affected, millions across the country, it should be bipartisan and that’s what we hope so we will try to get some republicans to join us on this effort.”

There are 60,000 women effected by the Hobby Lobby case in Alaska alone.  Begich says the decision shouldn’t be up to five men on the Supreme Court.