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Illinois ballot to have contraceptive question in November

While the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that certain corporations could cite religious objections and legally avoid a new health care mandate to cover contraceptives for women, Illinois voters will face a November ballot question about that very issue.

This is the ballot question:

“Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage?”

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So what does this mean?

First off, the outcome of the non-binding referendum would not pre-empt federal law. But if the majority of Illinois voters back the question, it gives lawmakers and the governor the public support needed to either tweak Illinois’ law if needed or fend off attempts to change Illinois law if that came up, say supporters of the referendum.

“I think when we decided to support the referendum, it was precisely because we were concerned about what was going to happen in the Hobby Lobby. We wanted to give the people of Illinois the opportunity to make their voices heard that birth control is basic women’s health care and that it’s not our bosses’ business,” said Brigid F. Leahy, director of Government Relations for Planned Parenthood.

Because it’s an advisory referendum, the outcome of the question wouldn’t change any state laws. But it could give needed political coverage to lawmakers who might need to tackle related issues next spring.

“We hope to work with [the governor and state Legislature] to come up with solutions for those women who were denied. But the first step is of course to let the public speak out,” Leahy said. “It may be tweaking our state law . . . if a woman is denied through her health insurance that she has access through other means,” Leahy said.

Meanwhile, the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Coalition, a group that opposes abortion, held an afternoon rally in Chicago on Monday to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.