Democrats eye Hobby Lobby defeat as a weapon on the campaign trail

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Democrats are hoping to turn a high-profile Obamacare loss before the Supreme Court into a political win ahead of November midterms, urging donors and women voters to help them reverse a decision to let closely held corporations duck a White House mandate to cover birth control as part of company health plans.

Moments after the court’s decision Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called the 5-to-4 opinion “disgusting” and said donors can’t let the GOP “use this to steal the momentum, erase our lead, and take over the Senate.”

The Democratic National Committee issued a similar call for cash, urging each donor to “add your name, and stand with Democrats protecting Obamacare and fighting for women’s health care.”

The high court said a 20-year-old law designed to protect religious liberty insulated Hobby Lobby, a family-owned crafts chain from Oklahoma, and other employers from an Obamacare rule that requires companies to insure 20 types of contraception. Religiously devout owners had objected to the mandate, particularly because they equate morning after pills with abortion.

Republicans and conservatives cheered the Supreme Court’s decision Monday as a victory for religious liberty and a setback for President Obama’s health care agenda. It also played into their attempts to use Obamacare as the centerpiece of a bid to retake the Senate in November.

“President Obama may believe that a person’s faith should be hidden under a bushel, but I believe it is inseparable from his or her identity,” said Rep. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican who is trying to unseat Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor. “We cannot have equality in America if we are not all equally allowed to exercise and act on our religious convictions.”

But Democrats said the decision will only stir their base, injecting the type of energy that may be needed to avoid a disastrous fall at the ballot box. The opinion plays into their playbook in two ways — the idea the GOP is waging a “war on women,” and the economic impact on female employees who must pay for their own contraception.

“Yesterday’s decision was just the latest reminder for women that it is crucial they stay active and engaged in electing candidates up and down the ballot who will protect their access to quality affordable health care, including contraception,” DNC spokeswoman Rebecca Chalif said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada noted the decision was made by five male justices — all three female justices dissented — while other Democrats looked to patching up the hole that’s been blown through Mr. Obama’s health care agenda.

Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democrat, argued Tuesday that women voters need to turn out “in order to protect their health.”

“We can fix this through legislation,” Ms. Moore said, citing proposals from Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.

Any proposal to smooth over Obamacare’s problems faces gridlock in the Republican-controlled House, but Democrats hope they can rally popular opinion.

In a sense, the Supreme Court’s ruling was narrow. It addressed companies’ objections to four FDA-approved contraceptives that they equate with abortion.

“Of course the Democratic rhetoric will make it seem far broader than it really is,” said G. Terry Madonna, a politics professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania “For the vast majority of women it won’t make any difference in their coverage because relatively few companies will deny coverage anyway, but it fits the narrative the Democrats will use.”

Women do not want companies to shirk coverage of contraceptives by a margin of 59 percent to 35 percent, yet their views on the issue differ by party, ideology and religion, according to a health policy expert’s analysis in The Wall Street Journal.

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