The U.S. Senate may vote this afternoon on an amendment that would stop the mandate President Barack Obama put in place to force religious groups to pay for insurance coverage that includes birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
Last week, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid blocked a pro-life Republican senator from putting forward an amendment to a Senate bill that would prevent the controversial new Obamacare mandate from going into effect. Reid came under heavy for fire complaining that Republicans want to protect religious rights.
“Our country is unique in the world because it was established on the basis of an idea: that we are all endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights — in other words, rights that are conferred not by a king or a president or a Congress, but by the Creator himself. The state protects these rights, but it doesn’t grant them,” McConnell said.
Now Blunt, a pro-life Republican, is putting forward the Blunt Amendment, #1520, again, and it is termed the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. According to information provided to LifeNews from pro-life sources on Capitol Hill, the Blunt Amendment will be the first amendment voted on when the Senate returns to the transportation bill, which could be as early as this afternoon.
The amendment would allow employers to decline coverage of services in conflict with religious beliefs.
UPDATE: The Hill indicates Reid said Tuesday that he will allow a vote on the Blunt amendment. Meanwhile, the usual pro-abortion leaders int he Senate — Patty Murrary and Barbara Boxer — say they will aggressively oppose the amendment.
“This is a genuine assault on First Amendment freedoms,” Blunt said in an exclusive interview with Heritage following a speech there Monday. Blunt dismissed Obama’s “accommodation” announcement last week as an “accounting gimmick.” He said it’s not an issue of money as Obama portrayed it Friday.
“This is not about cost. It’s about the Constitution,” Blunt told Heritage. “And if you can decide this no longer offends me because I don’t have to pay for it, I guess you’re concern is financial all the time and not faith-based.” [related]
“We want to be sure we’ve established the principle here that the Constitution establishes — that President Washington understood and President Jefferson understood, and my guess is, every president between them and right now understood — and that is respect for conscience is respect for religious freedom,” Blunt said.
While pro-life groups support the amendment, NARAL president Nancy Keenan called the Blunt amendment “a far-reaching and extreme proposal” that would “completely undo” the mandate and saying, “The amendment would also go so far as to allow insurers to deny coverage” based on moral and religious views.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates had been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the original mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.
Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.
Bishops across the country have spoken out against the original mandate and are considering a lawsuit against it — with bishops across the United States issuing public statements against it or having letters opposing it printed in diocesan newspaper or read from the pulpit.
“We cannot — we will not comply with this unjust law,” said the letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. “People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.”
The original mandate was so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”
The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.