By a largely party-line vote, the Senate on Thursday blocked a move to exempt virtually any employer with moral objections from the Obama administration’s controversial birth control health coverage rule.
The measure, an amendment proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to a highway funding bill, was tabled—and therefore effectively killed—by a vote of 51 to 48.
Only one Republican Senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine voted against the measure. Three Democratic senators supported it, Robert Casey (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.).
The measure was among the most sweeping of several congressional efforts to broaden the current religious exemption in the birth control rule, which only fully exempts explicitly religious organizations such as churches from its requirement that worker health plans include contraceptive coverage with no out-of-pocket charges.
Under the Blunt amendment, not only would church-affiliated organizations such as Catholic hospitals, universities, schools and charities have been free to opt out of the coverage, any non-religious employer with a moral objection would have qualified.
The amendment would also have allowed such employers to refuse to cover any other preventive procedures required under the administration’s rule if they had a religious or moral objection.
The rule has sparked a national debate about the limits of religious freedom.
Churches have always been exempt from the mandate, but Catholic and other religious leaders had complained that the rule would force church-affiliated institutions to pay for health services that violated their beliefs.
Trying to defuse the controversy, the Obama administration last month amended the rule. Under the revised rule, women who work for such organizations would still be guaranteed contraceptive coverage, but they would obtain it directly from their insurance companies, which would not be allowed to charge additional premiums.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to any compromise on the issue.
Link to the original article on The Washington Post