Meet Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Senate just narrowly voted 51 to 48 against his amendment, called the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, or the Blunt amendment. The proposed law was a response to the Obama Administration's rule that all insurance plans provide free birth control, and would have let any employer opt out of providing health care coverage that violated their conscience or religion. Here are five reasons to be happy it's not the law, for the time being.
- It didn't just apply to religious and religion-sponsored organizations. While Senator Blunt framed it as a question of religious liberty, the bill would have let any employer impose their religious views on their employees.
- It allowed employers to opt out of any type of health care coverage they object to. For example, if having a child out of wedlock violated an employer's conscience or religion, they could deny coverage for it. Other examples: an employer could refuse fertility treatment for gay or single women.
- It would give your employer, not your doctor, control over your medical decisions.
- Supporters of the amendment aren't considering women's point of views. If you saw the recent panel convened by Congressman Darrell Issa to discuss religious liberty and contraception, you know that it had no women on it.
- It could be life threatening. All hospitals, for example, would have free range to deny a woman an emergency abortion if her life was threatened.
Even GOP candidate Mitt Romney opposed it, at least briefly. He said yesterday, "I'm not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I'm not going there." Of course, then he walked back on that answer, saying he didn't understand the question and supports the bill. While the Blunt amendment is gone for now, we can probably expect more debates over social issues and women's health as the presidential election draws nearer.