There was a margin of three votes – only three. On Thursday, with a vote of 51-48 the Senate blocked the “Blunt Amendment,” which provides exemptions from the requirement that employers, regardless of religious belief, would have to supply morally controversial health services. According to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, “It’s a moral issue and a religious issue that should not be interfered with by the federal government.” Sen. Kelly Ayotte said:
We have a choice between being responsible stewards of [the Founding Fathers’] legacy as reflected in the First Amendment to the Constitution, or allowing the federal government to interfere in religious life in an unprecedented way… If we allow the government to dictate the coverage and plans paid for by a religious institution, that’s the first step down a slippery slope.
However, the fifty-one senators, mostly Democrats, who voted against the amendment think quite differently. Here’s a memorable quote from Sen. Barbara Boxer, a vehement opponent of the Blunt amendment:
[The Blunt Amendment] not only says that any insurer or any employer for any reason could stop women from getting access to contraception, it could also stop all of our families from getting access to essential health care services.
The Blunt amendment hinders access to essential health care services? On the contrary – if conscience-protection laws are not passed and the HHS mandate is, then there are going to be lots of people who sacrifice medical coverage rather than fund practices they believe to be immoral. Many hospitals will close, and the many patients dependent on those hospitals will be without care. All these people will no longer have access to medical care. This is because they were not guaranteed the freedom to choose what medical care they would cover.
What is offered to us is this: you either have all of the medical coverage out there and violate your religious beliefs, or remain in integrity and have all your medical coverage denied. The Blunt amendment’s purpose was to preserve basic human rights. Freedom of religion, speech, conscience, and choice – essentially freedom to have principles – as well as the freedom of true health care for all.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, claims that the defeat of this amendment is an important victory. I beg leave to differ from her opinion, while I still have the freedom to do so. Countless Americans depend on such amendments to safeguard their fundamental right of conscience. I would like to thank all of the senators who supported the Blunt amendment and fought for freedom – freedom given to the American people in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, freedom now disregarded and denied.