Senate Rejects Threat to Health Care Coverage for All Employees

Vote defeats attempt to allow any employer to refuse to cover critical health services for any reason

(PRESS RELEASE) Protecting basic health care coverage for millions of employees across the country, today members of the U.S. Senate voted 51 to 48 to block an extreme legislative effort to allow employers — religiously-affiliated or otherwise — to refuse to cover any service required under the Affordable Care Act for any religious or moral reason.

The amendment recently added by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to an unrelated highway bill would have permitted a massive exemption for any employer claiming a “moral objection” to the cost of any health benefit — potentially denying women and their families to critical services such as contraception, mammograms, maternity care, mental health services and HIV testing.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The real threat to liberty has come from those who have sought to deny the benefits of progress to the majority of Americans based on the ‘moral objections’ of an extremist few.

“Today the Senate rejected one such threat. It must stand strong against the others sure to follow.

“It is clear that anti-choice ideologues are once again using women’s fundamental reproductive rights as a wedge in a cynical attempt to divide the American public and advance a radical agenda that threatens the bedrock rights of all Americans.

“But there is no divide. The vast majority of Americans agree that everyone deserves equal access to affordable preventive health care, including contraception, no matter whom they work for.

“In a country where half of all pregnancies are unintended, what’s truly morally objectionable are these extremist attempts to deny copay-free access to the one thing that’s guaranteed to prevent millions of unintended pregnancies every year.”

Similar legislation has been introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), which also proposes allowing employers to refuse health coverage based on religious objection.

The White House announced earlier this month that employees at religiously-affiliated institutions that object to paying for no-copay birth control coverage — such as hospitals, schools, and charities — would be able to access the coverage directly from their insurers.

The Center for Reproductive Rights recently posted a comprehensive reply to the recent contraception controversy, which takes a closer look at the arguments by opponents of the contraception requirement, unpacks the legal issues and public health debate, and responds to many erroneous assertions.