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.