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‘Blunt amendment’ on contraceptive mandate diescomment (0)

March 8, 2012

Reactions to the Obama administration’s controversial contraceptive/abortion mandate continue to mount as the U.S. Senate deals a setback to the effort to protect religious freedom and conscience rights.

With a 51–48 vote, senators tabled an amendment March 1 to guard the “religious beliefs or moral convictions” of those offering and purchasing insurance under the health care law enacted in 2010. By its action, the Senate refused to consider — and, in essence, killed — a proposal offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in response to a requirement under the law that all health insurance plans cover without cost to employees sterilizations and contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.

The contraceptives, as designated by the federal government, include drugs — such as “ella” and the “morning-after” pill Plan B — that act after fertilization and destroy a human embryo.

Religious liberty advocates have criticized what they have described as an inadequate religious exemption in the mandate since it was issued in January.

President Obama announced Feb. 10 an accommodation he said protects religious organizations by making insurance companies responsible for paying for contraceptives and sterilization, but critics contended his solution was insufficient. They say the accommodation would not protect faith-based insurance plans or individuals who object to paying for such products.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is “outraged by the Senate’s decision to kill” the amendment, said Richard Land, the entity’s president.

“Make no mistake, the Senate vote was not about contraception but about the right of people of faith to be able to live out the values of their faith free from government coercion,” he said. “This insensitive response to our pleas to the Senate to protect religious freedom from government coercion cannot go unchallenged. If the government can tell its citizens that their First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom and conscience is subject to its dictates, then the First Amendment offers no protection to people of faith.”

Under the Blunt amendment, no plan would have been considered to have failed the requirements of the health care law if it declined to provide coverage because:

“[P]roviding coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for 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; or

“[S]uch coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.” 


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