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Blunt Amendment defeated, misinformation continues

March 1, 2012, 4:08 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

birth control pillsAs Kristin mentioned earlier, today was the Blunt Amendment’s day of reckoning in the Senate . Fifty Democratic Senators and retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe did the right thing and voted against this destructive legislation. Sadly, the rest of the Republican caucus and three Democrats (Senators Casey, Manchin and Nelson) voted to give corporate bosses the power to pick and choose which healthcare services their employees and employees’ families may receive.

Via TPM, I saw that Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) released a thoroughly misleading defense of his vote:

“However, the Senate is having a debate as to whether the federal government has the right to bully religious organizations. Let’s be clear, in no way would this amendment deny or interfere with a woman’s access to contraception. This is an absurd allegation. The debate today is about one thing and one thing only; whether the federal government can force religious organizations to provide a service that violates their faith. Supporters of the President’s healthcare law believe the federal government can oppress religious organizations, force individuals to buy a product they may not want, and put personal healthcare decisions in the government’s hands.

First of all, giving every employer the power to deny coverage of any treatment based on any ostensibly moral objection most certainly would interfere with access to contraception. USCCB staffer Anthony Picarello indicated as much when he complained that the Obama administration’s accommodation for religious institutions would not allow Taco Bell owners to deny coverage of contraception. The only way Heller isn’t outright lying is if he A) honestly believes that no employer would refuse to cover contraception – in which case this whole fight would be a mere intellectual exercise, or B) is completely unaware that many women cannot afford contraception coverage out of pocket.

Second, the Obama administration has explicitly put in place policies ensuring that religious congregations, dioceses, schools, hospitals, charities, universities, and health care facilities will not be required to provide contraception coverage  if they have moral objections to it. I don’t know which religious organizations Heller thinks are being “oppressed” here, but he must have a broader definition of a religious organization (and a more expansive definition of oppression) than I can imagine. Or, again, he could just be dealing in misinformation.

In the coming days I expect we’ll be hearing more arguments along these lines, but I hope other lawmakers who voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment will provide a more honest explanation for their support of this extreme legislation.  I’d love hear somebody explain why letting employers dictate which health care services their employees’ may receive is a morally defensible way to address religious liberty concerns.

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