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Patty M.
Democrat WA

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  • Not My Boss’s Business Act

    by Senator Patty Murray

    Posted on 2014-07-15

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    MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor to join with the senior Senator from Colorado, and I thank him for his excellent statement and leadership on this issue as we kick off this important debate on our bill, the Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act, or, as we just heard, the ``Not My Boss's Business Act.'' I start off by asking our colleagues a few basic questions: First of all, who should be in charge of a woman's health care decisions? Should it be the woman making those decisions with her partner, her doctor, and her faith or should it be her boss making those decisions for her based on his own religious beliefs? To me and to the vast majority of the people across the country, the answer to that question is obvious: Women should call the shots when it comes to their health care decisions--not their boss, not the government, not anyone else, period. But we are here because five men on the Supreme Court disagreed.

    Five men on the Supreme Court decided there should be a group of women across America who are required to ask their boss for permission to access basic health care. Five men on the Supreme Court decided a corporation should have more rights than the women it employs. Five men on the Supreme Court rolled back the clock on women across America, and we are here today because we cannot allow that to stand. People across the country think the Supreme Court was dead wrong on this decision, and we are here to be their voice.

    When we passed health care reform, we made sure every woman has access to basic health care, including contraception, which is used or will be used by 99 percent of the women in this country. When 58 percent of women use birth control for purposes other than pregnancy prevention--including managing endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and other medical conditions--we know this provision could have a sweeping impact on women across our country. In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 30 million women nationally are already eligible for this benefit, and when the law is fully implemented, 47 million women nationally will have access to no-pay birth control, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. By the way, thanks to this benefit, women have already saved $483 million, and that is just in the last year alone.

    Contraception was included as a required preventive service in the Affordable Care Act on the recommendation of the independent nonprofit Institute of Medicine and other medical experts because it is essential to the health of women and families. After many years of research, we know ensuring access to effective birth control has a direct impact on improving the lives of women and their families in America. It is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, to reduced risk of ovarian cancer, to better health outcomes for women and, by the way, far fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions, which is a goal we all should share.

    We should all know improving access to birth control is a good health care policy and it is good economic policy. We know it will mean healthier women, healthier children, and healthier families, and we know it will save money for businesses and consumers. But with their ruling, setting a potential dangerous precedent, the Supreme Court has not only inserted a woman's boss into her health care decisions, in many cases they have given him the final word.

    In the aftermath of this decision, women across America are turning to [[Page S4465]] Congress and demanding we fix this. And by the way it is not just women who want Congress to act. People across the country understand, if bosses can deny birth control, then they can deny vaccines or HIV treatment or other basic health care services for employees and for their dependents. I think what men across America understand is it is not just the female employees who are impacted, it is their wives and their daughters who are on their health care plan as well.

    As the ink was still drying on Justice Alito's misguided opinion in this case, I made an unwavering commitment to do everything I could to protect women's access to health care since the five male Justices of the Supreme Court decided they would not. That is why I have been working with my partner, the senior Senator from Colorado, to introduce this bill, and I am proud that in the many days since then we have received such strong support from people across the country.

    Our straightforward and simple legislation will ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period.

    This shouldn't be a controversial issue. The only controversy about birth control is the fact that it is 2014 and women across America are still fighting for this basic health care.

    The data is clear. Ensuring access to contraceptive coverage isn't just the right thing to do, it is a critical part of making sure women and their families have a fair shot. In the 21st century, women and their families shouldn't be held back by outdated policies and unfair practices.

    Again, it is not just about access to contraception. This includes pay equity, access to childcare, higher minimum wage, and it absolutely includes the right to make their own medical and religious decisions without being dictated to or limited by their employer.

    The bottom line is this: Women use birth control for a host of reasons, none of which should require a permission slip from their boss.

    I thank Leader Reid for moving this bill to the floor so quickly and for his commitment to getting this done because women across the country are expecting action. They do not want to wait. As we move forward on this bill this week, I hope enough Republicans can put proven science over their partisan politics and join us and revoke this Court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decisions about their own health care and their own bodies.

    I thank Senator Udall once again for his work with me on this commonsense and bicameral legislation. I also thank the Members of the House Pro-Choice Caucus who introduced their companion legislation in the House, and I sincerely hope our Republican colleagues on both sides of the Capitol will join us. For those who don't, for those Republicans who have already said they oppose our legislation, I am interested in hearing their answer to the question I posed a few minutes ago: Do they think bosses should be in charge of a woman's health care decision? Do they think women should have to ask their boss permission for health care used by 99 percent of the women? Do they think we as a country should start down the path where CEOs and corporations can start making decisions for all kinds of health care for their employees? Women across the country will be watching this debate, and I think they will be very interested in seeing who is on their side.

    I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

    Mr. BOOKER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Murray). No objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. BOOKER. Madam President, I rise to support the ``Not My Boss's Business Act,'' which will help to fix the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision by making it illegal for a company to deny their workers specific health care benefits, including birth control, as is required to be covered by Federal law.

    I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill which is necessary to ensure that all women have access to preventive care.

    I wish to say, on a personal note, I was a young child growing up in a household with a working mother. Mom worked for a big corporation and worked in human resources. My table would often be one where it was discussed that my mother was dealing with challenges of racial discrimination, challenges of sexism in the workplace. I watched how my mother, in human resources, would fight to make sure that we as a nation, as well as this particular corporation, continued to advance in fairly treating all of its employees. I was proud to watch my mother assert her independence, her freedoms, and her basic sense of equity, which resonates with the highest values of this Nation.

    What is frustrating to me now is here we stand in 2014, and we seem to be fighting so many battles and advancements we won before that are still needing to be fought.

    It is unthinkable to me that as we should be turning our focus toward other things such as paid family leave or raising the minimum wage, here we are again fighting about whether women should have the right to have access to birth control. This is unfortunate because contraception is essential to a woman's right to make her own personal health care decisions. Birth control is not only basic to making health care decisions, but it is one in which 99 percent of women avail themselves. Throughout their lifetime we will see 99 percent of American women avail themselves of birth control.

    These women should not be forced to decide between contraception and a tank of gas or between contraception and meals for their family, contraception and paying rent.

    The Hobby Lobby decision, if you think about it, is imposing the will of a corporation--one corporation's board member's religious beliefs or what-have-you can be imposed such that it would cost women who now want to exercise their freedom up to $1,000 a year. For minimum-wage or low- wage workers, the out-of-pocket cost for birth control each month is a real and substantive financial burden.

    Let's be clear. Workers have insurance coverage through their labor. It is part of their earned pay. This is not a free giveaway. They earned this coverage. What they spend their health care coverage on is their business, not their boss's business.

    I deeply value ideals of religious liberty. This is what this country was founded on. But religious liberty belongs to all of us; it does not belong to a corporation. Religious liberty means being free from having other people's religions foisted upon you, imposed upon you, or forced upon you.

    Most employees would never dream of telling their bosses what they must decide and abide by in terms of religious freedom. And by that same principle, no boss should have the right to impose his religion on the people who work for him.

    That is one of the reasons why so many faith leaders have spoken against the Hobby Lobby decision. It is now making it acceptable for a corporation to impose on the individual liberty of others their religious beliefs, also the financial freedom that goes along with that, and also the ability for a woman to make critical health care decisions. They might even be interfering with a doctor telling a patient what is best for them and their health.

    The views held by companies' owners should not be able to interfere with this basic understanding of fundamental rights. The Not My Boss's Business Act protects workers' religious liberty by not allowing their bosses to impose this hardship, to impose their religion, and to impose what I believe ultimately comes down to discrimination.

    Finally, the precedent set by this decision could open the door wider and wider for more court cases and more employers who want to deny more aspects of basic health coverage and services because they claim it conflicts with the boss's religious beliefs. From blood transfusions to vaccinations, we are now in a minefield in which we can have the destruction of religious freedom of employees and the health care freedom we have fought so hard to manifest.

    [[Page S4466]] The Hobby Lobby decision is a step backward that we must correct. It is a step against women's rights. It is a step against religious freedom. It is a step against workers who earn basic benefits to have the ability to make those benefits real in their lives.

    The Not My Boss's Business Act will make it clear that bosses cannot discriminate. The Not My Boss's Business Act will make it clear that there should be equal treatment under the law for the tens of thousands of workers whose coverage now hangs in the balance.

    A woman's health care decisions should be between that woman and her doctor. There is no room for a boss's religious beliefs in that equation, period.

    I watched for decades, growing up, not only my mother but countless people fight to establish basic principles in the workplace. We cannot go back now. This is such a critical piece of legislation, to correct for the mistakes in this Supreme Court decision and assert those fundamental American ideals, that individuals should be able to make their own health care decisions, that bosses and corporations should not impose religious beliefs on others, and that we are a nation where every woman can create a sacrosanct and private relationship with her doctor and make ultimately the health care decisions that are best for her, not ones in any way influenced or affected by a corporation.

    I thank again the Senate and the Presiding Officer for this time but, most importantly, I thank Senator Murray and other Senators who have led on this issue. I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Booker). The Senator from California.

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