Christian-owned craft store Hobby Lobby won the right to limit the birth control coverage it offers its employees in a Supreme Court decision, but U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked the chain Monday to voluntarily offer full coverage in Connecticut.
Blumenthal wrote Monday to David Green, the company’s CEO, asking the company to honor Connecticut’s health insurance laws for employees in this state. Hobby Lobby was a plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling that found some businesses can, because of their religious beliefs, choose not to comply with the federal health care law’s requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers.
Hobby Lobby has a limited presence in Connecticut. It currently operates a store in East Haven and will be opening another in Manchester. Blumenthal held a press conference Monday in a parking lot outside the building being renovated to house the craft store.
“I’m here to call on them to do the right thing and respect Connecticut law, history, and policy by offering all of its employees full contraceptive coverage approved by the [Food and Drug Administration],” he said.
Blumenthal called the Supreme Court decision “immensely misguided.” He pointed to a state statute requiring all group and individual health insurance plans to provide coverage for prescription contraception. However, he said the company was not legally required to comply with the state law.
“There’s no question that there are technical legal reasons that enable Hobby Lobby to, in effect, flout the Connecticut law,” he said. “That’s our state mandate. It applies to all the corporations in this mall, all the corporations that employ people across the state of Connecticut. Hobby Lobby can be the outlier but we hope it won’t be.”
State Healthcare Advocate Vicki Veltri said the decision undercuts medical findings that the full range of contraception should be available to women.
“The decision … really puts the employer between a consumer—the patient—and the patient’s provider. We’ve argued for years that the decisions made between a patient and a provider need to be respected. This decision really undoes that protection,” she said.
Blumenthal has co-sponsored legislation to reverse the court decision, but the bill is unlikely to pass through Congress. In the meantime, the senator declined to call for a consumer boycott of the supply store.
“I’m not going to tell consumers what to do. They’re smart enough to make their own decisions,” he said.
Susan Yolen, a vice president for public policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, also declined to call for a boycott.
“We’d like to see people use their own judgment. I think most of the people who probably walk in the doors of Hobby Lobby are women and so I think they are the most likely to be affected by this decision,” she said.
Calls for comment to a public relations firm representing Hobby Lobby were directed to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the company in the case. A spokeswoman for Becket Fund did not immediately issue a statement.
A lone protester attended the Manchester press conference and opposed Blumenthal’s comments. Nicole Stacy, a Hartford resident and member of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said she finds it offensive when people assume women “toe the party line on birth control.”
“I’m a Catholic woman, I hold to the official teachings of the church. If I were to want to run a business like Hobby Lobby, I wouldn’t want the government coercing me to go against my conscience, to violate my most dearly-held beliefs,” she said.