Dems target women with bills on contraception, pay

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

22 PHOTOS
contraception
See Gallery
Dems target women with bills on contraception, pay
Seth Hansen, 18, of Pensacola, Florida, stands vigil outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Demonstrators rally against Colorado Senate Bill 175, in a protest led by Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila, on the steps of the state capitol in Denver, Tuesday April 15, 2014. The bill up for debate Tuesday is described as a guarantee that state or local policies won't interfere with reproductive decisions such as abortion and contraception. Democratic sponsors say the measure is needed to protect women's rights. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Demonstrators stand on the steps outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Margot Riphagen of New Orleans, La., wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama's health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives. Supreme Court justices are weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
A group of people organized by the NYC Light Brigade and the women's rights group UltraViolet, use letters in lights to spell out their opinion, in front of the Supreme Court, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Washington. Holding the "H" in "Hands" is Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. The Supreme Court is weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Activists who support the Affordable Care Act's employer contraceptive mandate hold signs outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Activists who support the Affordable Care Act's employer contraceptive mandate demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The legal team representing craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. celebrates on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after a ruling is announced in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lori Windham, senior counsel with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal team representing Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., speaks to the media outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Activists opposed the Affordable Care Act's employer contraceptive mandate celebrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Activists on both sides of the contraceptive debate demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Anti-abortion advocates cheer in front of the Supreme Court after the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: A journalist runs out of the Supreme Court carrying a copy of the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Demonstrator react to hearing the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Michael Hichborn kneels and prays as he joins demonstrators while waiting for the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A demonstrator dressed as the 'Bible' stands outside the Supreme Court building awaiting the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Activists opposed the Affordable Care Act's employer contraceptive mandate celebrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Anti-abortion advocates cheer in front of the Supreme Court after the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ronald Brock moves his anti-Obamacare sign as protestors, press, and passersby wait for decisions in the final days of the Supreme Court's term, in Washington, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The court has yet to announce its finding in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The chain of arts-and-crafts stores does not want to provide insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception that it finds objectionable on religious grounds. The justices ruled Wednesday that a startup Internet company has to pay broadcasters when it takes television programs from the airwaves and allows subscribers to watch them on smartphones and other portable devices.The justices said by a 6-3 vote that Aereo Inc. is violating the broadcasters' copyrights by taking the signals for free. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Pro-Life activists stand vigil outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Barack Obama's health-care law, ruling that closely held companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that they offer birth-control coverage in their worker health plans. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Hobby Lobby supporters react to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled in a 5-4 decision in favor of Hobby Lobby saying that some private companies can be exempted, on religious grounds, from health care reform's requirement that employer sponsored health insurance policies cover contraception. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By CHARLES BABINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats and Republicans are fervently pursuing a batch of doomed bills in Congress because they target a coveted prize in the Nov. 4 elections: female voters.

Wednesday's Senate vote on contraception legislation is the latest example of Democrats' win-by-losing strategy, which forces Republicans to vote on sensitive matters that might rile women this fall.

Recent votes on "pay equity" and family leave issues were similarly aimed at women, who are increasingly crucial to Democrats' election hopes, and therefore worrisome to Republicans. Any shift in women's typical turnout or Democratic tilt this fall could determine tight elections, especially for the Senate.

Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to control the chamber, and these women's issues are especially lively in the most contested states, including Colorado, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Both parties must cater to their ideological bases in this midterm election year, even as they woo women who don't always vote. Nearly all Republicans are opposing measures that appear likely to expand abortion access, place new requirements on employers or limit religious conservatives' rights. And Democrats overwhelmingly support abortion access, worker benefits and equal treatment of women in the workplace.

Still, Democrats approached this week's birth control debate with different tactics, depending on whether they were seeking re-election in a GOP-leaning state or in a 50-50 or Democratic-leaning state.

Democrats knew Republicans would block their bill to counter the Supreme Court's ruling involving the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts company. The court said employers may exclude birth control products from their health insurance plans if the products violate the employers' religious faith.

Many Democratic and women's groups objected. No women "should require a permission slip from their boss" for affordable contraceptives that otherwise would be covered, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said.

Two Democrats who strongly campaigned against the court ruling are seeking re-election in states that President Barack Obama carried at least once, thanks in part to strong backing from women: Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado.

Minutes after all but three of the Senate's 45 Republicans voted to block the Democrats' "Not My Boss' Business" bill, Udall said his party will continue to contest a ruling that says "a boss' beliefs can supersede a woman's rights to health care benefits that she has earned."

GOP leaders defended themselves in floor speeches, press releases, TV interviews, newspaper op-eds and news conferences. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said Democrats were misleading women by suggesting a Hobby Lobby employee could not buy birth control products even with her own money. "No employer can interfere with a woman employee's access to contraception," Ayotte said.

Republicans promised to push legislation guaranteeing such access.

Democrats laughed at the GOP's idea of guaranteeing people something they already have. The court ruling, Hagan said, "just shifts the additional cost back to women" who have employer-subsidized insurance from companies like Hobby Lobby. And "that could affect access" to birth control for low-income women, she said.

Other Democratic senators in tough re-election races were more cautious. Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana were among the few Democrats who did not co-sponsor their party's bill. Pryor has said he understands the "deeply held religious views" of those who brought the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, but he disagrees with the court's ruling.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., enthusiastically backed the bill. His GOP challenger, Monica Wehby, is treading more lightly in a state Obama won by 13 percentage points.

The court's ruling "was very limited in scope," Wehby told reporters at the time. "As long as women have access to contraception through a third party, then I think we have to respect everyone's beliefs as much as possible."

Recent elections explain the two parties' fixation on female voters.

Women have outvoted men in every federal election since 1982, reaching 54 percent of the total in 2004, and 53 percent in 2012. Female voters preferred Democrats by 11 percentage points in 2012, while men favored Republicans by 8 percentage points.

Single women greatly preferred Obama over Republican Mitt Romney, 67 percent to 31 percent. They backed Obama over John McCain in 2008 by an even bigger margin.

The voting rate among women, and especially single women, usually drops more than male voting in nonpresidential elections. So Democrats are seeking ways to inspire women to vote this fall.

They pushed a "pay equity" bill that Senate Republicans blocked in April. It would have made it easier for workers to compare salaries and require employers to explain pay disparities.

Republicans try to turn the tables by pushing their own doomed initiatives, pitched as pro-women. Female GOP senators say they want legislation to reinforce existing laws against workplace inequities. Those efforts have about as much chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate as the dozens of failed Republican bids to overturn the president's health care law, which Republicans portray as harmful to women.

"Obamacare has caused countless women to lose the health care plans they had and liked," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a Senate floor speech this week.

His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, embraced her party's Hobby Lobby position, albeit in gentle, careful tones.

"I support the right of all American women to have full access to contraception, and respect the exemption of churches from providing this service," Grimes said in a statement. The Supreme Court, she said, "got it wrong" regarding corporations.

Read Full Story

People are Reading