Patty Murray
  • Ansel Herz
  • PATTY MURRAY Has been a badass from the very beginning—and is now trying to roll back the Hobby Lobby decision and its assault on women's rights.
Let's get one thing clear in the face of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, says Senator Patty Murray: "Women use birth control for a host of reasons—none of which should require a permission slip from their boss." Control of your fertility is not some sort of niche issue, a market only for liberal jezebels: Fully 99 percent of sexually active American women have used contraception in their lives, 88 percent of whom used the pill, shot, patch, or IUD. And, not that it should matter, but 58 percent of women who use birth control pills take them for non-contraceptive reasons—acne, chronic pain, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome. (Some stats are here.)

Decisions about birth control, Senator Murray says, should be "between a woman, her partner, her physician, and her faith." (Let's be inclusive and add that people who don't identify as women use birth control, too.) But five male Supreme Court justices decided that "her boss should also be in the room." Murray notes that "the women of the court all came down on the side of common sense."

Murray, not one to take a slap like that without a counterattack, came out to the good Capitol Hill in the good Washington this morning to talk about her response: the Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act, also being called the "Not My Boss's Business Act," which we wrote about on Tuesday. This law would ensure that employees get contraceptive care in their employee-provided health plans, in the face of the recent court ruling. Let's "tell the Supreme Court they got it wrong," Murray announced to a crowd at Oddfellows Cafe, including Oddfellows owner Linda Derschang and assorted reproductive rights advocates.

How will the law work? The Supreme Court's decision was not an interpretation of the Constitution, Murray points out, but an interpretation of a 1993 law passed by congress called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. She thinks their ruling was a mistaken interpretation of the intent of the RFRA (a law she voted for), but Congress now has an opportunity to clarify its intent. Her bill, she explains, "very simply says: For-profit corporations cannot deny health care benefits to their employees." It doesn't amend the RFRA, it just says regardless of the RFRA, corporations can't pick and choose their own personally acceptable health care items for employees. Murray reminded the room that we just went through this with another women's rights issue: fair pay. When the court decided in 2007 that Goodyear employee Lilly Ledbetter's decades of pay discrimination were outside the statute of limitations, Congress went back and tweaked the law so that each new paycheck counts as a new act of pay discrimination. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama. Bam! That's how the three branches of government work.

Murray says a companion bill is going to move through the House—with the help of another Washington State lawmaker, Representative Suzan DelBene—and she expects a vote in the Senate next week.

People will, of course, say this can never make it through the Republican-controlled House. But it would be folly to take this huge of an attack on women's rights sitting down, and given the near-universal use of contraception—Murray also noted that access to contraception is one of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act—maybe this kind of cruel blow to average women isn't exactly the move Republicans want to make this year. Maybe they don't want to keep being seen by voters as completely out of touch with women. Maybe being pro-religion when it means being anti-woman is not a winning issue for them.

Who knows. But we have to try something.

UPDATE: How can you help? Here are a handful of things you can do right now.