Hobby Lobby response puts McFadden on the spot

Republican-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden talked to volunteers at a Republican campaign office in Eagan on July 9, 2014. Tom Scheck/MPR News

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats wasted no time rolling out a response to last week's Supreme Court decision on contraception and religious freedom. That decision exempts the evangelical Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores and other religiously-minded corporations from the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide mandatory contraceptive coverage.

The bill, introduced on Wednesday with the backing of both DFL Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, would ban employers from not covering any treatment that's guaranteed to employees under the law.

"This is really about protecting employees," said Franken, who noted that almost all women use contraception at some point in their lives and many do so for medical reasons unrelated to birth control.

A vote is expected by the end of July although there's little chance the Republican-controlled House will take up the measure.

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Franken's likely Republican opponent this fall, Mike McFadden, accused Franken and Democrats of turning the issue into a political football.

McFadden has tried to focus his campaign on the economy and avoid social issues in a state where voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposed ban on gay marriage in 2012. Earlier this week, McFadden did not answer questions from the Bemidji Pioneer about the case, saying he did not want to focus on "polarizing issues."

When asked about the case at a campaign stop on Wednesday, McFadden said he was open to finding a way to make sure all women receive access to contraception.

"One of the solutions that I'm looking at is to make contraceptions available over the counter for women that either don't have insurance or work for an employer that does not cover contraceptions," said McFadden, although he did not offer any suggestions for how such a plan would be paid for.

That response could put McFadden at odds with some conservative Christians who make up a large proportion of Republican voters.