Republicans pounce on Democrats' bill to reverse Hobby Lobby ruling

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Senate Republicans sent a message to their Democratic counterparts: you won't be the only party ready to respond in the wake of a Supreme Court decision on contraception coverage.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., denounced her Democratic colleagues Tuesday for what she calls a "misrepresentations" of a recent Supreme Court rulingthat closely-held companies like Hobby Lobby don't have to follow the Obamacare mandate requiring large firms to help pay for their employees' birth control. In response, she said, Republicans will be introducing a bill that "will make very clear that women have the same rights today to access contraception as they did before Obamacare was passed and before the Hobby Lobby decision."

"The Supreme Court's ruling did nothing to change a woman's ability to access birth control or other forms of contraception. Our bill will reaffirm that no employer can prohibit an employee from purchasing an FDA approved drug or medical device," Ayotte told reporters.

Democrats, on the other hand, say the recent ruling infringes on women's rights and have been seeking a way to undo the ruling. Last week, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced a bill that specifically bans for-profit employers from refusing to provide health coverage -- including contraceptive coverage -- guaranteed to their employees under federal law.

"Last week we saw the Supreme Court give CEOs and corporations across America the green light to deny legally mandated health care coverage," Murray said. Women are "tired of being targeted and are looking to Congress to right this wrong by the Supreme Court."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., backs his colleagues and the first procedural vote on the Democrats' bill is expected Wednesday.

Ayotte argues the GOP bill, in addition to clarifying that employers cannot limit a woman's' ability to purchase contraception, will also focus on ways to expand access. It will ask the Food and Drug Administration to study the safety of making contraception available over the counter and also look for ways to improve affordability by removing limits on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts implemented by the Affordable Care Act.

"Obamacare restricted the rights of people to use those accounts to purchase over the counter medications and so we would restore those rights to the American people," Ayotte said.

Ayotte also criticized her colleagues who have begun using the hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness, which was started by pro-abortion rights groups protesting Hobby Lobby's lawsuit outside of the Supreme Court last month.

"I really am disappointed that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would try to score election-year points by misrepresenting what the Hobby Lobby decision stands for," she said.

Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are also planning a press conference with several religious groups Wednesday to protest the Democrats' bill.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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