Breaking: Senate kills Blunt amendment on religious conscience exemption to HHS mandate

posted at 12:12 pm on March 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Democrats managed to wrangle enough votes to table the Blunt amendment that would have amended the HHS mandate to allow employers a religious-conscience exemption from the requirement to supply free contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization to their employees:

The Senate voted today against an amendment to restore the religious liberty protections for employers who don’t want to be forced to pay for birth control or drugs that may cause abortions in their employee health plans.

Leading pro-life organizations called on the Senate to vote for the amendment to the mandate the Obama administration issued, but Democrats banded together against republicans to defeat it on a 51 to 48 margin by adopting a motion to table, or kill, it.

Key pro-abortion senators including Clare McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana voted against the amendment — which will energize pro-life advocates against their re-election campaigns this November. On the other side, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska were three Democrats who crossed sides and voted with Republicans to support the amendment.

The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179).  It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.

There’s been a lot of ridiculous spin on the HHS mandate, but perhaps Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s takes the cake:

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) arguing prior to the vote that Republicans wanted to roll back women’s rights to the “dark ages” when they were considered property.

“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,” said Lautenberg. “Its appalling we are having this debate in the 21st century.”

Er, let’s remember that this amendment has nothing to do with denying current access to birth control.  The CDC’s long-term study on contraception and unwanted pregnancies never even mentions access as one of the causes of non-use of birth control in unwanted pregnancies.  In fact, they found that 99% of women who wanted to be sexually active and avoid pregnancy accessed contraception: “”Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 99 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method in their lifetime.”  Neither did the Blunt amendment propose to eliminate Title X federal funding for contraception through Medicaid.

The Blunt amendment only addressed the Obama administration’s diktat to employers that they have to supply contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization to their employees for free, even if their religious conscience opposes such products and services.  It has nothing to do with banning contraception or making it any less available than it is now.  It has everything to do with allowing people to freely practice their religion without interference from government, especially in being forced to directly fund and/or facilitate something that should be the responsibility of the individual in the first place.

What now?  This puts the onus right back on the White House.  Clearly, this issue isn’t going away no matter how badly the media reports on it.  Obama can continue to pick a fight over contraception with religious organizations, or move to take the entire issue off the table by broadening the exemption.  I’d guess he’ll do the latter, but it may be too late to undo the damage to his standing with Catholics and mainline Protestants if a change doesn’t come soon.


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….that dental retainer picture for JugEars mouth bug me

KOOLAID2 on March 1, 2012 at 5:45 PM

blink on March 1, 2012 at 5:32 PM

You seem to be repeating the word “communist” without trying to provide any kind of solution to the very “real life” questions I have raised. Let me take one last try to get some “real” answers out of you, as opposed to repetition of the well worn talking points:

(1) do you understand that we currently have an employer provided system of health care? In other words, pretty much all Americans who work for an employer with 20 or more employees depend on the health insurance provided by their employers?

(2) do you agree that the determination of a medical condition should be made by a health care professional who is certified to do so (I am sure you don’t visit a quack when you break your leg)?

(3) do you think we should turn back people without insurance from emergency rooms? If your answer here is “yes”, then please disregard the next question.

(4) if neither employer not government pays for someone’s insurance, who picks up the tab when they go to the emergency rooms? Hint – it’s our taxes, individual + corporate. If that’s the case, what costs less – upfront payment by an employer provided insurance for a treatable health condition, or the emergency room care?

(5) you do realize that, even in employer provided insurance in most cases, there is a certain amount that gets deducted from the employee’s pay check. A large majority of employees (specially young employees) do not use most of those benefits. In that case, shouldn’t they also get a discount on their pay check deductions? See that it works both ways?

I do not profess to have a clean answer for all these questions myself, but at least I do have the intellectual honesty to tackle them without the boilerplate “capitalist” or “communist” claims.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 6:04 PM

You do realize that employers shouldn’t be required to provide employee health insurance, right?

blink on March 1, 2012 at 5:34 PM

I am a somewhat lapsed Catholic, but I agree with the Church that “health care is a basic human right”
(http://old.usccb.org/healthcare/hc_letter_to_house_final_2-24-10.pdf), so I support universal health insurance. The fact that we spend so much more money on health care and end up with poorer outcomes that the rest of the civilized world is also a factor.

I have never thought employer-based coverage is the best way of achieving this goal, but it is more free-market oriented than “Medicare for all” plans or having the government actually run the healthcare system and employ the doctors (as in the U.K.). The insurance mandate has been the preferred conservative approach ever since we started seriously discussing health care reform in the 1980′s (just ask Mitt and Newt). I can’t help but think that conservative outrage over the concept would be considerably less if the plan had been proposed by anyone other that the current occupant of the White House.

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM

In theory, we shouldn’t need an amendment on a bill to tell us what the Constitution already says.

Ronnie on March 1, 2012 at 6:15 PM

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM

If health care is a right, why do you think the government should be in charge of telling us how much we can have?

Ronnie on March 1, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Biden: We ‘screwed up’ contraception mandate
http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/03/biden-we-screwed-up-contraception-debate-116128.html

Southern by choice22 on March 1, 2012 at 6:19 PM

I am a somewhat lapsed Catholic, but I agree with the Church that “health care is a basic human right”
(http://old.usccb.org/healthcare/hc_letter_to_house_final_2-24-10.pdf), so I support universal health insurance. The fact that we spend so much more money on health care and end up with poorer outcomes that the rest of the civilized world is also a factor

I think you are accusing rights and privileges. Even if “healthcare” is a right that right does not extend to someone else paying for it. Property is a right and speech are a right, but that doesn’t make the jump to other people paying for those rights.

A right simply means the government cannot deny you it. It doesn’t mean the government or the people have to pay for it.

melle1228 on March 1, 2012 at 6:23 PM

A right simply means the government cannot deny you it. It doesn’t mean the government or the people have to pay for it.

melle1228 on March 1, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Obviously, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this point, but I come to my conclusion partly as a matter of common sense. We already do pay for it, and we have been paying for it ever since we determined, as a society, that we weren’t going to let people die in the streets for lack of medical care. If we are going to pay for emergency care and for lifesaving treatment for those who can’t afford it, it behooves us to pay for preventive care as well, since it is considerably more cost effective.

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 6:42 PM

The fact that we spend so much more money on health care and end up with poorer outcomes that the rest of the civilized world is also a factor.

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Links?

Yoop on March 1, 2012 at 6:55 PM

f

we are going to pay for emergency care and for lifesaving treatment for those who can’t afford it, it behooves us to pay for preventive care as well, since it is considerably more cost effective.

I wonder if you ever had to be seen under a government healthcare system or a socialistic one? I have had the unfortunate privilege of both. Government NEVER makes things more cost effective, and they certainly aren’t competent with big programs. Just because we save people’s life does not translate into a right to paid for healthcare.

melle1228 on March 1, 2012 at 6:57 PM

…if neither employer not government pays for someone’s insurance, who picks up the tab when they go to the emergency rooms? Hint – it’s our taxes, individual + corporate.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 6:04 PM

Pure BS. Where do you get such an idea? For the 15 years I was self-employed prior to retirement I paid the entire cost of my health insurance myself. I know three other consultants who presently pay all of their own health insurance coverage. Not one dime of taxpayers money paid for my coverage, nor does it pay for theirs.

Yoop on March 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I wonder if you ever had to be seen under a government healthcare system or a socialistic one? I have had the unfortunate privilege of both. Government NEVER makes things more cost effective, and they certainly aren’t competent with big programs. Just because we save people’s life does not translate into a right to paid for healthcare.

melle1228 on March 1, 2012 at 6:57 PM

The fact that we spend so much more money on health care and end up with poorer outcomes that the rest of the civilized world is also a factor.

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Links?

Yoop on March 1, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Well in the past years Canada and Europe had their rather good socilialized healthcare, although it had certain shortcomings (Britain’s NHS and dentistry, for example), and America innovated most of the pharmaceuticals and fancy surgeries for them. And there was always the option of flying to America to treatment for the really dire/exotic stuff. So all in all these socialized countries’ healthcare WAS pretty darn good. And they spent less for it than Americans did for theirs.

Problem is, America is ALWAYS more corrupt and less efficient than Europe and Canada at these kind of things. They can actually kinda make them work. With Americans they become huge cesspools of corruption and awful outcomes. And they cost 150-300% as much. Americans SUCK at bureaucracy. Furthermore there is no country that the US can really leech off for surgical and pharma developments the way the Canucks and Euros did the US.

Basically everybody is screwed as far as healthcare advancement is concerned. And quality will fall everywhere, but especially in the US.

Daikokuco on March 1, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Common communist thinking is more like it.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Well that does it, your well-reasoned arguments have convinced me of the superiority of your views.

/

cam2 on March 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Yoop on March 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

If you had taken the pain to read my comment completely, you would have realized the emergency room solution is relevant to two kinds of Americans:

(1) folks who cannot afford insurance

(2) folks whose insurance coverage is so inadequate that they ignore medical necessities till the point they have to be rushed to the emergency

Since you bring up personal experience as a means to bolster your argument (which is usually a weak argument), I would counter with the fact that there are many people I have seen, who were not too flush with cash when they were starting off their own businesses, and landed up in that second category. I am glad for you and your friends that they were never in that category – but there are a lot of people who are, and the costs to the government and hospitals for such people does hike up the overall cost of health care in this country.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 9:41 PM

blink on March 1, 2012 at 9:11 PM

Funny – I have seen the exact same quote from multiple people on diverse threads today. The quotes point to the quality of healthcare, not to the cost or the availability. We all know that quality and availability of a service are in some sort of an inverse relation, so it’s not really rocket science that, for the countries that profess to have universal health care, their efforts to insure everyone has taken a toll on the quality of service.

Also, if just the number of MRI machines were the only determining factor, why would so many Americans remain outside the reach of health care? Think about it.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 9:47 PM

They can try if they want, and if they don’t like it, then they can find another employer who will allow them to.

This is called a free market solution – NOT a communist solution.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 7:04 PM

And your “communist” talking point resurfaces. The point about getting insurance rebates was my attempt at underlining your own inconsistent stand on this issue. If insurance companies get “free money” from healthy people or healthy groups, they can also give away “free drugs” to the same people or groups. The companies (employers) are represented by lobbies, and government must represent the employees and the small business owners.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 9:48 PM

Which has nothing to do with people that purchase their own health insurance. Nothing.At.All

Dude, you’re really striking out here.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 9:50 PM

But that is the point though, isn’t it? You were claiming that you know many people who purchase their own insurance. My point is – there is also a large percentage who don’t and eventually end up in emergency rooms hiking the price of health care for all. Since you can’t get rid of those people or refuse them service, you have to think of a comprehensive solution.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Dude, you better come up with something better than this because you’re getting your butt kicked.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 9:54 PM

So your dictionary for winning an argument is (a) call the other person communist, and (b) after repeated attempts at (a), also mention they are losing the argument. Your debating brilliance just boggles my mind.

Give cogent, fact-based arguments please. It’s not rocket science, and after a while, you will start liking yourself again.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 9:59 PM

And you wonder why you’re called a communist. The majority of employers in this country are small businesses without lobbyists.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 9:54 PM

A lot of small businesses provide health care, too – and without any “conscience clause reservations” if I may so add. I think I should have phrased my comment better : most *insurance* companies have lobbies, and hence the employers get sweet heart deals while the employees get shafted. Hence the government should make laws to protect the employees. I know Google gives great health care, but not every American can or should work for Google.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 10:00 PM

By the way, if you have not experienced it yourself, try owning a small business (I have) – and see how the insurance companies end up costing you (if you have barely more than 20 employees). The bigger companies end up with the best deals – and also bring the most profits to the insurers, because a majority of those employees hardly go to doctors much. A uniform law governing the insurance companies can bring a lot of that in check. And this is not capitalism either (more like crony capitalism) since a lot of these companies have so much waste that their employees sometimes wonder how they can stay in business. In a more level playing field, some of them would disappear, and the rest would break up into leaner more efficient units.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 10:05 PM

Admit that you made erroneous claims before expecting anyone to even try to figure out what the heck you’re trying to claim now.

What kind of “erroneous claims”, may I ask? I maintained, and still maintain that there are a large number of people who end up in emergency care without insurance. If you don’t believe that, ask your primary care physician.

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 10:09 PM

I’ll tell you how to fix healthcare, but this has nothing to do with the debate about forcing others to buy birth control.
blink on March 1, 2012 at 10:06 PM

That goes to the heart of the problem though, doesn’t it? The employer should not have the right to refuse any aspect of health care, since (a) that’s how employer provided insurance is supposed to work, and (b) what constitutes health care is supposed to be determined by the employee’s physician (an idea you claim to be communist for some rather unfathomable reason).

peter_griffin on March 1, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Apparently, you don’t understand the difference between healthcare and insuring healthcare.

There is nothing wrong with employers choosing different health insurance plans. I’m sorry if this fact is too difficult for you to understand.

blink on March 1, 2012 at 10:24 PM

And I don’t think you understand the difference between an employer making a judgement on the definition of healthcare as opposed to a certified physician. Trust me, if you breathe deeply and think for just a little bit, you might actually get it.

peter_griffin on March 2, 2012 at 1:01 AM

If a woman wants Birth Control Pills all she has to do is go to the Health Department. They do not charge and they will take children 14 and older without a parent. Need an Abortion, go to planned parenthood, they furnish them with a smile and champagne, especially if it is a minority baby, that is what their original mandate was, reduce the birth of minority (BIack) children.

old war horse on March 4, 2012 at 5:24 PM

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