Setting the Record Straight on the Blunt Amendment

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 15, 2012   |   12:51PM   |   Washington, DC

As pro-abortion groups and Democrats in the U.S. Senate step up their attacks on the Blunt Amendment, the amendment pro-life Sen. Roy Blunt is offering to restore conscience protections Obama’s new mandate takes away, his office is refuting some of the common misconceptions.

THE CLAIM: Senator Blunt’s amendment would allow anyone to deny coverage of any health care for any reason. It would take us back to the medical dark ages.

THE FACTS: This is unequivocally false. Senator Blunt’s amendment simply restores conscience protections that existed before President Obama’s flawed health care law – the same protections that have existed for more than 220 years since the First Amendment was ratified.

THE CLAIM: Any employer can deny coverage of specific items under Senator Blunt’s amendment – whether faith-based or secular.

THE FACTS: Senator Blunt’s amendment would do nothing to change or restrict the same rights that Americans have enjoyed for more than 220 years. If an employer has a religious or moral objection to a type of coverage, Senator Blunt’s amendment affords them the same rights that they had before ObamaCare to negotiate a plan with a health insurance company that meets their needs. However, Senator Blunt’s amendment does nothing to force the health insurance company to offer that plan – it simply ensures that Americans are guaranteed the same rights and freedoms that they enjoyed before President Obama’s unconstitutional mandate. Senator Blunt’s amendment also provides a private right of action for employers and individuals who believe their conscience rights have been violated by government mandates. Federal courts are well equipped to identify spurious claims.

THE CLAIM: Senator Blunt’s amendment would gut existing state mandates on contraception coverage.

THE FACTS: Senator Blunt’s amendment would not impact existing state laws, and it does not address any other law other than President Obama’s flawed health care plan.

THE CLAIM: There is no precedent for broad conscience protections like ones that the Blunt amendment would enact.

THE FACTS: Many longstanding federal health care conscience laws protect conscientious objections to certain types of medical services.

Blunt’s office has posted a handy flier with these facts. [related]

The new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is so offensive more than 50 members of Congress will speak out against it today.

The press conference comes as the U.S. Senate is expected to vote soon, possibly as early as today, 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.

Blunt , a pro-life Missouri 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. The amendment would allow employers to decline coverage of services in conflict with religious beliefs.

Republicans are moving swiftly with legislation, amendments, and potential hearings on the mandatethe Obama administration has put in place that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.

Congress will do what it can to fight back, starting this week, as pro-life Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, puts together a hearing on conscience rights.

“If this is what the President is willing to do in a tough election year, imagine what he will do in implementing the rest of his health care law after the election,” Issa said.

Rep. Dan Lipinski, a pro-life Illinois Democrat, and a host of Republicans from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), will hold a hearing entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” on Thursday, February 16th at 9:30AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

On Thursday, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and others offered Amendment #1520 to ensure Obamacare cannot be used to force health plan issuers or healthcare providers to furnish insurance coverage for drugs, devices, and services contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Democrat, blocked the amendment.

Leading pro-life groups, including Americans United for Life, are urging support for the Amendment, which could be added to another piece of legislation.

“The Obama Administration continued its unprecedented attack on Americans’ freedom of conscience by refusing to reverse its mandate that nearly all insurance plans must provide full coverage of all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved “contraception,” including the abortion-inducing drug ella,” the organization said in an action alert to its members. “We must urge the Senate to protect Americans’ freedom of conscience by supporting Amendment #1520, which would protect the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage that is consistent with one’s religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  issued a statement saying Obama’s revised mandate involves “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” and it urged Congress to overturn the rule and promised a potential lawsuit.

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 in more than 164 locations 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.