February 16, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Women’s Rights, Senator Toomey, And The Roy Blunt Amendment
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is not happy about the Obama administration’s compromise on birth control. It appears Blunt will only be satisfied when employers are able discriminate against their employees. Senator Blunt would like employers to be able to impose their religious beliefs when it comes to health care insurance coverage.
Blunt’s amendment would give any employer, not just religiously affiliated ones, the right to refuse coverage of any services, treatments, or medications included in a health-care mandate that they disagree with.
If a health-care-related item or service included in a company’s health-care plan clashes with the moral or religious beliefs of an employer, or even an insurance provider, they can refuse to pay for it.
I recently contacted the illustrious Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), of my home state of Pennsylvania, to voice my opposition to the Blunt Amendment. Below, I have provided the full text of the response I received from his office. I will offer no rebuttal to this response because I believe it’s inaccuracies, latent dismissal of women’s rights and misinterpretation of constitutionally protected religious freedom is self-evident to those not blinded by religious dogma and discriminatory ideology.
Full text of the reply I received from Senator Pat Toomey’s office:
Dear Mr. Sutton,
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office concerning the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate of contraceptive and sterilization coverage. I appreciate hearing from you.
Recently, a new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mandate has incited a national debate about the appropriate role of government in our lives and the right of religious institutions to the free exercise of their faiths. This new mandate requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives, including abortion-inducing pills, and female sterilization. Many faith-based institutions believe these services to be deeply immoral.
After hearing strong objections from lawmakers of both parties, the administration responded by offering an “accommodation.” Under this modified rule, these same plans would have to be provided to the same employees of the same institutions. The only difference is that the administration has indicated that certain services would now come without any cost. However, businesses do not really provide services for free. Contraceptives cost money to manufacture and purchase. As such, the costs of contraception services will eventually be passed along in higher insurance premiums for employers. In the end, all institutions will still be required to pay for all mandated services, including those services deemed objectionable on moral grounds.
I understand your concerns about women’s health and access to preventative services. In my opinion, the crux of this debate is more about freedom of religion, and more broadly, personal freedoms protected by our constitution. It should not matter to people whether they are comfortable with insurance plans providing contraception. What should matter is whether they are comfortable with the government imposing its will on religious entities and forcing them to support activities that directly contradict their faith. Here, the First Amendment’s free exercise clause generally protects religious liberty over government compulsion.
It is for these reasons that I have joined my colleagues in opposing this PPACA mandate, co-sponsoring two pieces of legislation. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467), introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), would protect individuals and medical providers from new federal mandates that could undermine rights of conscience. Similarly, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (S. 2043), introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), would provide a religious exemption from a PPACA regulation forcing members of religiously affiliated entities to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs. I am hopeful the President will sign these measures into law or modify his proposal to exempt religiously affiliated entities.
Thank you again for your correspondence. While we may not necessarily agree on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania
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