Senate rejects move aimed at birth-control requirement
Legislation to create a conscience exemption to a federal mandate for health plans to cover preventive services was narrowly defeated, but supporters promised to continue pursuing it. The 51-48 rejection of the amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (RMo.) was largely partisan, although three Democrats—sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania—supported it, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-maine) opposed it. The Republican-backed amendment was in response to the ongoing controversy regarding an Obama administration requirement that preventive services provided to beneficiaries at no cost include birth control and sterilization services. “This proposal isn’t limited to contraception nor is it limited to any preventive service,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a written statement. “Any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to.” Republicans said the measure was needed to protect the religious liberty of employers, including Catholic hospitals, for whom artificial birth control and sterilization conflict with the core tenets of their faith, and that it would require employers to add services equal in cost to any they rejected for moral grounds. Blunt said in a statement on the floor that he would bring the issue back for future votes.