A U.S. Senate bill requiring companies to cover birth control in employee healthcare plans failed a procedural vote yesterday. Both Alaska senators voted for the bill, aimed at undoing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of only three Republicans to vote for the measure, dubbed the “Not My Boss’s Business Act.” It fell four votes short of the 60 needed to proceed.
The legislation would’ve restored a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide workers with coverage for all legal forms of contraception. In the Hobby Lobby decision, the court allowed closely held companies to refuse birth control coverage on religious grounds.
The case is seen as pitting a woman’s access to contraception against her bosses’ religious freedom. Murkowski chose the other side of the issue in 2012, when she voted for an amendment to allow any employer with moral objections to opt out of the requirement to cover birth control. A few days later, Murkowski told Anchorage Daily News columnist Julia O’Malley she regretted that vote and felt she’d let down people who’d believed in her.
Murkowski issued a written statement today saying her vote is consistent with her long-held belief that women should have access to affordable birth control. She says she’s still seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act but doesn’t think access to healthcare services should be restricted in the meantime.
The bill never stood much chance of passing, but Democrats hope the issue will help rally their base to the polls in November.
- The law establishes Alaska as the second state in the nation to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day.
- U.S. Senate leaders postponed a vote on their health care reform bill, but Alaskans opposed to the bill aren’t letting up. One Alaskan, a three-time cancer survivor, went to Washington to make his pitch directly.
- Oprah Winfrey and some of her friends will be cruising through Alaska next month. Forbes reports that the seven-day Holland America cruise "Share the Adventure" departs from Seattle on July 15 on July 15. The 2,104-passenger ship will visit Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Sitka and other Alaskan sites.