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Senate Rejects Roy Blunt’s Respect for Rights of Conscience Bill 51-48

Senate Rejects Roy Blunt’s Respect for Rights of Conscience Bill 51-48

Today the Senate rejected Roy Blunt (R-MO) Respect for Rights of Conscience Bill by a narrow margin of 51-48.

The wording of the bill could potentially allow a doctor to deny a patient a blood transfusion because such a procedure is against his religious views.  A Catholic Hospital could potentially deny a woman treatment that could save her and her baby and impose their religious views on her, because it is against the hospital’s religious doctrines.

In essence, it’s a version of the earlier Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 (S.1467), introduced by Blunt in August. And like Blunt's original bill, which USCCB backs, his exceedingly broad amendment would potentially grant any employer or insurance provider the right to refuse health care service coverage without penalization or discrimination, if they claim doing so is counter to their moral or religious beliefs. Blunt's amendment currently has 37 co-sponsors, including Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who also introduced his own bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 [S.2043], the latter of which focuses specifically on health care exclusions and would allow all employers to deny contraceptive coverage on religious grounds.

“What the Blunt Amendment would really do is give employers and insurers a license to discriminate and impose their beliefs on employees and policy holders who don’t share them,” says Lipton-Lubet. “That’s not what religious liberty is for but it is a logical conclusion of the Bishops’ request regarding birth control…It’s playing politics with health care run amuck.”

This all started because the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) fought Obama’s mandate for employers to cover birth control for women.  Originally, the mandate exempted churches, but then officials rewrote the mandate stating insurance companies cover the cost birth control directly to the patient.  Regardless of the mandate rewording, the USCCB wants the entire mandate repealed.

In fact, the organization writes, it wants the entire contraceptive mandate repealed.

It has been their goal all along, says Lipton-Lubet, “regardless of a woman’s health care needs and regardless of a woman’s own belief.”

“What this fight has really been about are efforts to roll back access to birth control, despite the fact that almost all women use it and despite the fact that institutes like the Center for Disease Control have acknowledged that family planning is one of the greatest public health achievements in the last century,” she says.

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This bill, to overturn Obama’s mandate, was Blunt’s response, even though he is Southern Baptist, according to Wikipedia.  Supposedly, he refuted the idea that this bill would allow doctors to deny a treatment for any religious views they have.  He issued a statement concerning his disappointment with the Senate not passing his bill.

“I am truly disappointed by the partisanship that has been injected into this debate on religious freedoms.

“The fact remains that this provision would simply preserve the fundamental religious freedom that we enjoy today. For the first time in our history, the Obama Administration’s health care mandate is an egregious violation of our First Amendment rights.

“This fight is not over."

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According to Center For Inquiry (CFI), this is a win for secularists to keep the religious from controlling health care.  If the Senate did pass it, the religious would probably control health care, denying vulnerable citizens preventative health care.

The Senate's rejection of this proposal marks a win for concerned secularists, and the Center for Inquiry, which has worked hard to protect health care from religious control. If passed, the Blunt amendment would have effectively allowed employers and health insurance providers to impose their religious beliefs on employees and recipients. This could have left millions of Americans — including our most vulnerable citizens, such as babies and pregnant women — without essential and preventative health coverage, simply because of their employer’s religiously motivated objections.

CFI also stated that while Blunt denied this, this amendment would strip people rights to make their own health care decisions and make their health vulnerable to religious beliefs.  Currently, according to CFI, federal regulations do not deny people their right to religious freedom in their health care decisions and they are free to exercise their religious beliefs in their medical treatment.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, Blunt’s bill, if passed, the religious beliefs of the doctor or organization would have denied women freedom of choice in their health care.  It would also allow employers to deny coverage of certain health care services based on their beliefs.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said, "It would not only take away the ability of women to get contraception through their insurance, but it would threaten every single essential health care service, every single preventive healthcare service, if your employer or your insurance company had a moral objection" (Sink, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 2/29).

Barbara Boxer, in an MSNBC interview video on Hill Tube, called Blunt’s bill a radical amendment, which goes after women’s health.

According to World Christian News, most Democrats characterize this bill as a ban on contraception and it would also deny women breast cancer screenings and flu vaccinations.

Blunt, a Southern Baptist, has perhaps been sensitive to the conscience concerns of religious institutions because he was president of Southwest Baptist University before joining Congress in the 1990s. Religious colleges don’t qualify for a religious exemption under the contraceptive mandate.

According to World Christian News, the Senate voted to table Blunt’s bill and Blunt believes that the Supreme Court would side with conscience protections, not Obama’s mandate.

“You can try all you want to separate these issues but they don’t separate,” Blunt said.

RH Reality Check reports differently.  They state, while there is not a strong Equal Protection or gender discrimination claim based on the Constitution, there is a viable Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act violation.

However, while there isn’t a strong Equal Protection or gender discrimination claim based on the Constitution, Tolson does offer that there is “definitely a viable Title VII [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] action here.” As reported previously for RH Reality Check, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled in 2000 that employer-provided insurance plans that refused contraceptive coverage but provided coverage for impotency and blood-pressure treatment were in violation of Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion and national origin. And, as reported by Mother Jones, the EEOC opinion, sans a Supreme Court decision, was approved with no alteration or withdrawal from the George W. Bush administration. Thus, for the last 12 years, most proprietors with 15-plus employees have been required to offer contraceptive coverage if they offer preventive care for men and women.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • All I can say is "good" — but look at how close this was.


    • I agree. I was holding my breath on this one, esp since Blunt-head is from my state. I didn't vote for him and I can't wait to vote him out of office. The man makes me sick. I'm like Santorum in the opposite direction- I puke with people like him and Blunt-head.

  • zzzzz

    I am glad the bill did not pass. It is amazing that this is still an issue at all at this moment in time.

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