Democrats criticize GOP U.S. Senate candidates for opposing access to contraception
The Colorado Democratic Party is lambasting the Republican candidates for Senate for opposing access to contraception. The Democrats have declared that Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, state Representative Amy Stephens and state Senator Owen Hill "have lined up to support intrusive polices that would restrict a woman's right to health care."
These Democrat admonishments come in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a case filed by Hobby Lobby challenging the Affordable Care Act.
"What we're looking at here in Colorado is a GOP Senate primary with candidates that believe employees who choose to have health insurance have to have that health insurance at the demand of the religious beliefs of their employer," says Jennifer Koch, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party. "I think that is a fundamental problem."
The Hobby Lobby case, known as Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., was filed by the Christian owners of the arts-and-crafts chain. They allege that the Affordable Care Act violates their religious beliefs because it requires them to provide contraceptive services as part of their employee health care plan. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hobby Lobby, ruling that the birth-control requirement violated the owners of the company's religious freedom. Now the nation's highest court will consider the issue.
"If the higher court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby stores, it will set a precedent for this type of intrusive employer-driven control over employees' health care," Koch says. "This is a major corporation. They employ thousands of people. How many of these thousands of people not only know the religious beliefs of their CEO but have met their CEO? Who is protecting the little guy? Who is protecting the hourly worker?
"Is it the GOP Senate candidates right now? I think not."
To back up its argument, the Colorado Democratic Party sent out a press release quoting past statements made by Buck, Stephens and Hill that it says shows these candidates oppose access to contraception. Here is a sampling of the statements:
In November 2013, Buck appeared on 850 KOA and was asked a question about contraception by a caller.
CALLER: So I'm a small-business owner and I'm very concerned about Obamacare. The biggest issue that I have is I don't want to pay for birth control for my employees. So how can we stop this?
KEN BUCK: Well, I think -- I think you should have a religious liberty in not engaging in areas where you don't feel you need to engage. And it's one of the downsides of government-mandated insurance is that they will try to force that on you and if I were in the United States Senate and I were voting on that, I think it's up to individual business owners to decide what type of insurance plans they're going to offer their employees.
Stephens led the effort to continue state funding for abstinence-only education programs. In February 2013, the Durango Herald reported, "The House debated the bill for about four hours Tuesday, and most of the opposition was led by Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, an advocate for abstinence education. Stephens complained that the bill does not hold other sex-education programs to the same standard as abstinence-only programs, which she called sexual risk avoidance education. Stephens also said parents should have to opt their children in to the program, rather than having them enrolled automatically unless they opt out. 'This bill is shrouded in secrecy and confusion,' Stephens said. 'Every parent should be concerned about what's taken place today. This is an outrage of epic proportions.'"
In October 2012, the Colorado Right To Life noted on its blog that, "Owen Hill (R) is pro-life, supports Personhood, and responded to the CRTL survey with 8 out of 9 questions answered correctly (he still believes anti-abortion regulations are helpful, but is willing to listen further about how they undermine the Right to Life)."
According to the post, "No candidate is considered 'pro-life' unless they support the Personhood amendment and have pledged to oppose all abortion (with the understanding that a doctor may take action to save a woman's life while also trying to save the baby's life, even if the baby's survival is doubtful due to other factors). This is the only position consistent with the inalienable Right to Life of every innocent human being at every age or stage of development. Candidates who support 'rape or incest exceptions' are NOT pro-life because there is never an excuse to kill an innocent child."
But does that mean the candidates side with Hobby Lobby? Koch admits she's not aware of any statements made by the candidates regarding that specific court case.
We've reached out to all three Republicans to get their take on contraception, the Hobby Lobby case and the Colorado Democratic Party's press release -- and we'll update this post if and when we hear back. Stay tuned.
More from our Politics archive: "Hey, Girl: Is birth-control insurance pitch featuring Ryan Gosling pics 'hosurance?'"Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.