BOSTON — Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker said Thursday he misspoke when he said Massachusetts won't be affected by the Supreme Court ruling that found some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
Baker, who supports the state law that includes contraceptive coverage, corrected his previous comments to say it's possible given the court decision that a small segment of employers could qualify for the narrow exemption to the contraceptives mandate.
Baker told reporters Wednesday that for Massachusetts, the court decision — known as the Hobby Lobby ruling after the name of the company seeking the exemption — won't affect the state because of existing state laws that require coverage for contraceptives.
"The good news is Massachusetts won't be affected by the Hobby Lobby decision because Hobby Lobby doesn't change any of the state laws we already have here, which I think is great," Baker told reporters. His Wednesday comments echoed a quote his campaign provided to The Associated Press last week when asked for his reaction to the decision.
His original reaction to the ruling drew sharp criticism from women's rights groups and his Democratic rivals — Martha Coakley, Steven Grossman and Don Berwick, each of whom sent out comments Thursday faulting Baker.
Coakley sent out emails, one calling Baker "out of touch with the issues that affect voters, most especially women voters" and a second fundraising email, again pointing to Baker's comments.
But Baker said Thursday that as governor he would make sure Massachusetts employers continue to offer comprehensive health insurance coverage, including contraceptives. He said if any woman doesn't receive contraceptive coverage through her employer, his administration would make it available through the Department of Public Health.
"I have always, and will as governor, support women's right to access comprehensive health care, and I am glad that Massachusetts has for more than a decade required insurers to provide contraceptive coverage," he said.
Baker has taken a fundraising lead in the governor's race.
His Republican primary challenger, Mark Fisher, has enthusiastically backed the court's ruling on contraceptives, calling it another blow "to the Obama administration's attempts to remake the U.S. Constitution into a tool to be used against its citizens."
"By upholding our First Amendment right to the freedom of religion this ruling has given hope to common citizens that no one, not even the president of the United States is above the law," Fisher said in a statement to the AP last week.