HELENA — Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday limiting contraception coverage fell along party lines in Montana’s congressional delegation, as Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines hailed the decision as upholding religious freedom.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision protects Americans’ rights to religious freedom against Obamacare overreach,” he said in a statement.
The 5-4 decision said private, for-profit companies cannot be required by federal law to offer contraception coverage as a free, “preventive service” in health plans offered to employees.
Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain, had sued to challenge the mandate, saying its evangelical Christian owners had religious objections to paying for such coverage.
Montana’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Jon Tester and John Walsh, denounced the ruling Monday, saying it allows corporate executives to make health coverage decisions for their employees.
“The Supreme Court got it wrong,” Tester said in a statement. “Corporations are not people and they should not be interfering in a woman’s basic access to health care.”
Walsh said employers should not be able to deny women basic health coverage for birth control.
“Today’s ruling means women could pay hundreds of dollars more per month because their bosses get to determine the type of health care they receive,” he said.
Walsh also used the ruling to criticize Daines’ anti-abortion stance, saying the decision “echoes a disturbing effort by (Daines) to deny women everywhere their fundamental freedom to private health care.” Walsh said a bill supported by Daines to declare the constitutional right to life at the moment of conception could outlaw some forms of birth control.
Daines opposes abortion, co-sponsored the life-begins-at-conception bill and has supported other bills restricting abortion.
Daines said Monday that “every American should be free to live and work in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
While the Supreme Court ruling allows private companies to opt out of paying for birth control coverage in employee health plans, Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said there are other ways to ensure that women get the coverage.
He said the federal government could pay for birth control coverage, or the insurer offering the policy could finance it as a preventive service.