The Obama administration is urging the Senate to reject a GOP attempt to overturn a contraception coverage mandate, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius calling the amendment “dangerous and wrong.”
Anticipating a Thursday vote on the amendment, Democrats spent hours Wednesday afternoon blasting it from the Senate floor, where they said it would give employers a blank check to refuse covering anything from childhood immunizations to maternity coverage for interracial couples.
Offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, the amendment includes sweeping language that would allow employers to avoid covering any preventative service required under the new health care law by citing moral or religious objections.
“This proposal isn’t limited to contraception nor is it limited to any preventative service,” Mrs. Sebelius said. “Any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to. This is dangerous and wrong.”
The amendment is in response to a rule issued by the administration requiring employers — including many religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities — to cover contraception for female employees without charging a co-pay or deductible. The administration subsequently amended the rule to exempt faith-affiliated schools, hospitals and charities from the rule, but U.S. religious leaders, led by Roman Catholic bishops, have said the changes do not go far enough to protect religious liberties.
While 36 Republicans and one Democrat have signed on to the Blunt amendment, female Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins haven’t endorsed it. It’s not expected to pass when Senate votes on whether to attach it to a transportation bill Thursday morning.
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