Senate Rejects Blunt Amendment

March 1, 2012

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 51-48 to table a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would have allowed employers and health insurance providers to exclude any coverage that they deem immoral or contrary to their religious beliefs.

The so-called Blunt amendment would have altered the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to read that:

"… a health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide [Essential Health Benefits or Preventive Services]" if it does not cover a service or benefit because "providing coverage… of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan."

The Senate's rejection of this proposal marks a win for concerned secularists, and the Center for Inquiry, which has worked hard to protect health care from religious control. If passed, the Blunt amendment would have effectively allowed employers and health insurance providers to impose their religious beliefs on employees and recipients. This could have left millions of Americans -- including our most vulnerable citizens, such as babies and pregnant women -- without essential and preventative health coverage, simply because of their employer’s religiously motivated objections.

For example, the CEO of a major corporation or the owner of a small business could have revoked birth control coverage, or denied maternity care to women, because of his or her religious convictions regarding contraception and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Employers and health care providers would also have been able to reject coverage for a wide range of vital services such as childhood immunizations, blood transfusions, mental health care, and prenatal screening for life-threatening genetic disorders.

Sen. Blunt claimed that his amendment would have further protected religious freedom. In reality, it would have stripped Americans of their right to make their own health decisions, and placed them at the whim of someone else's religious beliefs. Contrary to Blunt’s assertion, current federal regulations that require employers and health care providers to cover essential and preventative coverage do not restrict the free exercise of religion and belief in any way. No one is being forced to engage in health practices they find objectionable. The regulations merely require that employers and health insurance companies that provide secular services actually provide the full range of those services.

CFI would like to thank all of our followers who relayed these concerns to their Senators via our action alert. Your voice made a difference. 

To see how your Senator voted, click here. To contact your Senator about this vote, click here.

#1 Monty Gaither (Guest) on Sunday March 04, 2012 at 3:49pm

I am grateful that both of the senators of Arizona voted against the “blunt” amendment.

It is irrelevant what the superstitous beliefs of the providers of healthcare or insurance is.  A person has the right to birth control pills, whether for preventing pregnancy or for other health reasons.

#2 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Sunday March 04, 2012 at 4:23pm

Michael


You congratulate the:

•  Concerned secularists, and the Center for Inquiry, which has worked hard to protect health care from religious control.

However, I think that this is a mis-charaterization. We are all trying to influence legislation, even the secularists, as you aptly point out. It is far from a matter of “religious control.” If anything, we are seeking First Amendment protections against secular government control and the freedom to exercise our own conscience without imposition secular values.

I think that your next statement is also a mis-characterization:

•  Blunt amendment would have effectively allowed employers and health insurance providers to impose their religious beliefs on employees and recipients.

The freedom to choose our own insurance coverage does not represent an imposition of our “religious beliefs on employees and recipients.” Potential employees are always free to seek employment according to the insurance coverage that they deem important. This has always been the case. Different employers have offered different coverage, and this has always been deemed acceptable. Why do you insist that the government must impose uniformity?

You lament that if religious employers have their way,

•  This could have left millions of Americans—including our most vulnerable citizens, and pregnant women—without essential and preventative health coverage.

I find it odd that you would deem the inclusion of abortive drugs would protect the “vulnerable… such as babies.” If you are truly concerned about the vulnerable, perhaps you should reconsider requiring the religious to provide such drugs?

You add that the Blunt amendment,

•  Would have stripped Americans of their right to make their own health decisions, and placed them at the whim of someone else’s religious beliefs.

I fail to understand why you are so concerned about the “right” of the former while you are entirely insensitive to the right of the latter group. If you think that the one group should have that freedom, why do you deny it to the latter, who you describe as exercising “the whim of [their] religious beliefs?

This characterization is needlessly dismissive. It can be turned around in terms of “the whim of secular religious belief.” Why is your position less whimsical than mine?

#3 jambaugh on Thursday March 08, 2012 at 10:09am

A person does not have the right to birth control pills, they have the right to have access to them and every American has that right.  You get a prescription from your Dr. and you go to the drugstore and buy what you want.

Remember that there are two parties to the insurance coverage contract.  The consumer does have the right (until the full weight of the health care reform act comes into effect) to refuse to subscribe to coverage they find morally objectionable.  (Though I can’t find an insurance company which is allowed to refuse payment for certain pseudo-scientific alternative medicines).  The insurance companies, especially non-profit collectives, should be able to make the same type of choice.

Remember, freedom means freedom to make the wrong choices or it isn’t freedom at all.  A company should be allowed to make bad choices and to fail thereby.  If there’s a market for insurers who do not provide certain services then they will not fail and their choice is not “bad”.

I for one would like an insurance company which does not waste my premiums to pay chiropractors and acupuncturists to practice their mojo.  The Blunt amendment might have allowed such companies to exist.  (And a “non-discriminatory” clause in the current legislation introduced by chiropractor lobbyists will disallow this when it goes into effect!)

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