N.H. candidates react to Hobby Lobby decision on partisan lines

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that companies can deny coverage of birth control for religious reasons caused a partisan split between candidates for federal and statewide office in New Hampshire, with Democrats decrying the decision as a loss for women’s health care and Republicans cheering it as a win for religious freedom.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptives. It allowed certain exemptions for churches and other religious organizations, but the court’s ruling says even for-profit companies whose owners have religious beliefs can refuse to cover birth control. The majority opinion, however, notes there are other ways for women to access that coverage.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan, both Democrats, quickly sent out fundraising emails pegged off the decision.

“The Supreme Court’s appalling Hobby Lobby decision allowing corporations to deny women insurance coverage for birth control shows how high the stakes are in this election – we CANNOT lose our Democratic Senate majority,” read an email from Shaheen’s campaign signed by “Defeat Scott Brown.”

As governor in 1999, Shaheen signed a law that required insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to also cover contraception. That bill passed with broad bipartisan support. Last session’s Republican-led House tried to include a religious exemption in the law, but the bill did not pass the Republican-led Senate.

Scott Brown’s campaign – he’s running to unseat Shaheen – took several hours to issue a statement and did not directly comment on the court’s ruling, even when pressed for further comment.

“Scott Brown supports women’s health care and access to contraception but by injecting government into every aspect of our lives, Obamacare threatens all our freedoms. The best solution is to repeal it,” said Elizabeth Guyton, Brown’s communications director.

As a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Brown co-sponsored the so-called Blunt Amendment, which would have written religious exemptions into the Affordable Care Act. That bill died in the Senate largely along party lines.

Bob Smith, a vocal pro-life candidate running against Brown in the GOP primary, applauded the decision in a statement. Jim Rubens’s campaign said he was out of town for a personal reason and unavailable to comment. He is an on-record pro-choice candidate but supported the high court’s recent buffer zone decision on First Amendment grounds.

In the other races, U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter also expressed disappointment over the ruling, while Republicans Gary Lambert and Marilinda Garcia, who are fighting for the nomination to challenge Kuster, sent out statements praising the ruling. Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, a Democrat running for re-election, also issued a statement calling the decision wrong for women and families.

In the governor’s race, Republican Andrew Hemingway called the decision a win for the Constitution and hit Hassan for her fundraising email.

“Let’s be clear, the Court sided with the Constitution, not a Corporation. We know Governor Hassan has doubled down on her adoration of Obamacare but she should know that the Constitution comes before political expediency,” he said in an email to supporters.

His Republican primary opponent, Walt Havenstein, said in a statement that he thinks the ruling demonstrated a flaw in Obamacare.

“I fully support women’s access to health care, including contraception,” he said. “However, the Supreme Court has exposed one of Obamacare’s fundamental flaws, which is that it imposes a one size fits all answer to every circumstance.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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