The Senate this afternoon defeated Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo) amendment that would have allowed employers to refuse to cover health services they found "morally objectionable, "
including covering contraception.
The Senate voted 51-48 against Blunt's measure, which challenged President Barack Obama's policy requiring health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
The Hill reports:
The White House policy requires employers to include contraception in their employees’ healthcare plans without charging a co-pay or deductible, but exempts churches and houses of worship. Religious-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals would not have to directly cover birth control in their healthcare plans, but their employees could still obtain it, without a co-pay, from the insurance company. [...]
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) argued prior to the vote that Republicans wanted to roll back women’s rights.
“The Republicans want to take us forward to the Dark Ages again … when women were property that you could easily control, even trade if you wanted to,” Lautenberg said. “It’s appalling we are having this debate in the 21st century.”
RH Reality Check's Jodi Jacobsen notes that the amendment would have gone far beyond denying just contraception coverage:
Blunt would have given employers sweeping authority to decide the kinds of basic health services to be covered by insurance plans, enabling any individual employer, religious entity, corporation, or health plan to refuse to cover any health care service to which they objected even on vague "moral" grounds, including, for example, screening for cervical and breast cancer, contraception, maternity care, HPV vaccines, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.
As the ACLU explains:
The Senate today voted to table a dangerous amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would roll back access to birth control. The Blunt Amendment would have eliminated insurance coverage for countless other critical health care services by allowing any insurer or employer to deny coverage for any health service otherwise required under the Affordable Care Act.
“The Blunt Amendment and its supporters are out of touch with reality,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, ACLU policy counsel. “Overwhelmingly, women from every religious background use contraception to protect their health and plan their families and lives. The Senate did the right thing by American women today.”
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised the Senate's decision:
“Today’s vote is a win for women,” Keenan said. “The combination of grassroots power and strong leadership in the Senate ensures that women will get health insurance coverage for contraception. The senators who voted against birth control will have to answer to their constituents why they would be okay with giving bosses who oppose contraception the ability to deny this coverage to their employees.”
“The Senate vote shows that women’s contraceptive coverage should not depend on their bosses’ views on birth control,” Keenan said. “Even though women have won this important round, we know that these politicians are obsessed with attacking birth control. That’s why we will continue to fight back against this anti-contraception agenda that is so out of touch with our nation’s values and priorities.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan: “Even though women have won this important round, we know that these politicians are obsessed with attacking birth control."
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also sees today's Senate vote as a win for women:
“This is an important victory. Today’s vote says that your boss won’t be able to decide which prescriptions you can get filled and which medical procedures you can have.
“For women, this vote is an important victory for covering contraception just like other preventive health care. The birth control benefit is critically important for millions of women, who have watched the debate over this benefit with disappointment and bewilderment.
“Today the U.S. Senate stood up for women’s health and basic health care, and defeated this extreme proposal that would have allowed any corporation or health plan to refuse to cover any health care service they object to, such as cancer screenings, maternity care, HIV/AIDS treatments, and others.
“A wide range of health care groups, including the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Spina Bifida Association joined Planned Parenthood in opposing this dangerous proposal.
“As a trusted health care provider to one in five women in America, Planned Parenthood believes that women, regardless of where they work, should have access to health insurance that covers preventive health care, including birth control, with no co-pays.
“The Blunt amendment would have rolled back an enormously popular benefit and undermined a fundamental principle of the health care law — that everyone in this country deserves a basic standard of health insurance coverage.”
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) stated today that the attacks on women’s health are unlikely to end soon:
“Republicans may have lost this battle, but there’s no indication that they are going to give up attacking women’s health as a political strategy.
“So I want to make it very clear, we will continue standing up for women, for families, and for their health care needs. We want to get back to work to create jobs and boost the economy, but we stand ready to fight back against amendments like this as long as Republicans keep bringing them up.”