Senate Votes to Kill Rule That Would Allow Employers to Deny Birth Control Coverage

Illustration for article titled Senate Votes to Kill Rule That Would Allow Employers to Deny Birth Control Coverage

Some good news, for a change: earlier today, the US Senate voted to table the Blunt Amendment, a terribly stupid provision tacked onto an unrelated transportation bill which would've allowed any employer or insurance company to decline to cover any medical care for any moral reason. Twenty million women could've been affected, had the bill been enacted. This means that, for now, at least, your boss shouldn't be able to deny you birth control pills because he thinks contraception is whorish. And that for once, failing to pass the Blunt is actually a good thing.


All in, the Blunt Amendment was defeated 51-48, which is a little too close for comfort when you consider the legislation's implications.

During debate, proponents of the Blunt Amendment claim that allowing employers and insurers to decline to cover anything because of "moral reasons" is about preserving personal liberty and protecting the first amendment, but they failed to establish how giving institutions authority over individual health care choices constitutes "personal liberty." In a particularly confusing speech, amendment sponsor Roy Blunt explained that people concerned about the amendment's promise to let any employer or insurance company decline to cover any care for any moral reason were overdoing it. Most insurers wouldn't change a thing! Most employers would keep providing the same coverage they'd already been covering. In short, he told his colleagues that they should vote for his amendment because it's not like it would ever be fully realized or anything. Women wouldn't be losing care, they'd just be in danger of losing care. See? Nothing to worry about.


Senate opponents smelled a piping hot pot of bullshit stew, countering that it was clear that the aim of the Blunt amendment is denying women birth control and reproductive rights. New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg launched into an impassioned speech about how conservatives want to drag women back to the dark ages and how hateful language like the type Rush Limbaugh's face sphincter used yesterday was unconscionable. California's Barbara Boxer pointed out that the Blunt Amendment granted insurance companies the right to be morally opposed to pretty much anything, including treating cancer. When your religion is capitalism, anything that causes you to spend money is an abomination, right?

But we all know that this is really about sluts. The Entitled Young Slut who Demands Government-Financed Pills to Enable Her Constant Fucking is the new go-to conservative strawman, in the company of such other strawmen as the Cadillac Driving Black Welfare Queen and the Pregnant Mexican Who Comes Here to Give Birth to an Anchor Baby and Bleed the System Dry (oddly, conservative strawmen tend to be women with stuff going on in and around their straw vaginas). In recent days, more than one conservative pundit has appealed to this stereotype and called for those sluts who are fucking themselves out of house and home to just stop having sex. Rush Limbaugh thinks wanting access to low-cost birth control is akin to wanting to be a prostitute. Some other guy who thinks that birth control costs more depending on how much sex you have accused sluts of trying to bleed the system dry. It's women, women and their unstoppable and unquenchable need for sex that are to blame for society's ills. They must be stopped! Or thwarted! Or, at the very least, penalized with poverty and inconvenience!

Thank you, Senate, for acting like you've still got some damn sense.

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The Ghost of James Madison's Rage Boner

I consider myself a Christian, and I still find this "religious exemption" talk very scary. The Free Exercise Clause is not, and was never intended to be, a Get out of Jail Free card. The Founders' intention was the prevent government from telling people how/what/whether to worship and churches how to conduct their church business, as went on frequently in England and Europe, where you had various state-sanctioned religions. There is nothing in the historical record to suggest they intended to allow believers to pipe up as they chose, "This law conflicts with my beliefs, so I don't want to obey it." That, in our pluralistic society—where, again, the government cannot dictate matters of faith—would lead to absolute chaos.

If I decide to bring back human sacrifice, I am not exempt from prosecution for murder. If I decide to build a church, I have to comply with zoning laws and maintain insurance. If I divorce my wife, I have to comply with my state's Family Law code—I don't get to handle the divorce through my church hierarchy. If I decide to start a business to support my church, I have to obtain the usual licenses and pay taxes. If I decide to found, say, a hospital, I have to comply with regulations covering how one runs a hospital, even if all the nurses are also nuns.

That has been the settled law for decades. Believers are not granted exemptions from neutral laws of general applicability, that is, laws that govern everyone without concern for who you are and what you believe.

What really boils my blood is that the people pushing this idea are, in many cases, the very same people who have been screeching the loudest about Sharia law being implemented in the US by those sneaky Muslims. It isn't, and won't be, because of this very tradition. But, of course, these people believe the First Amendment only applies to Christianity, so I'm sure they still sleep well at night.