In a move largely expected to prompt a legal showdown in the courts over the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case, state lawmakers are attempting to remove the exemption that lets employers opt out of providing health coverage for contraceptive and birth control if it goes against their religious beliefs.
The proposal, Assembly Bill 5508, would not let employers deny coverage for contraception if it goes against their “bona fide religious beliefs and practices.” The measure passed by an 8-2 vote Thursday in the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.
There’s a conscious view that the decision could be tested and I would suspect that it will be through our court system. We’re familiar with that case. What we’re doing, we’re doing it consciously.
– Assemblyman John McKeon
“There’s a conscious view that the decision could be tested and I would suspect that it will be through our court system,” Assemblyman John McKeon, D-27th District, who chairs the committee, said yesterday. “We’re familiar with that case. What we’re doing, we’re doing it consciously.”
The landmark 2014 case that ruled in favor of arts and crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby stated that owners of businesses can deny coverage of contraceptives if it goes against their religious beliefs. The federal government previously required such coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but the high court ruled that the mandate violated the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“It’s not all about religion, it’s about access,” McKeon later told NJBIZ. “If there’s an employer that objects to having that particular coverage, we’ll see what the courts say. I think it’s worthy of being revisited.”
“That’s I guess the worst-case scenario, if employers, the Catholic Church for example if they’re so inclined to determine that they’re not going to provide that mandated coverage for the person that they employ,” he added.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th District, could not be immediately reached for comment.