Kevin Landrigan: NH Senate stalls on making business owners inform about contraceptive coverage
CONCORD - Abortion rights advocates suffered their first defeat of 2015 after a bill to make businesses inform workers they won't provide contraceptive coverage stalled in the State Senate.
The mild surprise of a 12-12 deadlock came after a policy committee endorsed the mandate that had the backing of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and other groups.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, and Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, joined all 10 Senate Democrats to support it.
But conservative Republicans said the legislation amounted to an over reach of what state government should be telling business owners.
"This bill is seeking a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, and we are concerned about adding additional burdens on small businesses," said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry. "New Hampshire workers are perfectly capable of understanding the benefits provided by their employers."
Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, reacted angrily to the bill's failure.
"The majority of Republicans in the Senate made it very clear today that they are more concerned with advancing a regressive, far-right agenda towards women, than a true concern for the health and welfare of New Hampshire's women,'' Lasky said.
Likewise, Gov. Maggie Hassan said she was troubled the bill's failure means owners can withhold family planning services without telling current or prospective employees.
"This common-sense legislation would have protected workers, ensuring that employer policies to deny or limit contraception services would be disclosed," Hassan said in a statement.
Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, now a US senator, championed the law she signed in 2000 to mandate contraceptive coverage in all health insurance plans.
But supporters pushed for this legislation because of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision allowing employers to opt out of reproductive coverage for religious reasons.
The federal court's decision supersedes state law, allowing employers to deny contraceptive coverage for religious reasons.