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Friday, 2 March 2012

Senate Tables Blunt Amendment, 51 to 48

It's been a significant week for setting legislation around the world, apparently. On the heels of Welfare Benefit Reform being voted in on Wednesday in Britain, the Blunt Amendment was struck down in the United States Senate on Thursday.

What is the Blunt Amendment?

For my non-American readers who may not be following the saga involved with this particular amendment, named for sponsor by Senator Roy Blunt, it's been at the top or near the top of American news for most of February. The Blunt Amendment was drafted to allow health insurance plans to be exempt from providing coverage for services that violate their religious beliefs. The example on which there has been the most focus is Catholic employer insurance plans providing coverage for contraception pills.

The Blunt Amendment was a response to an Obama administration ruling that all health plans provide free contraception.

Not Fair to Women

The Blunt Amendment wasn't fair because all it took was a company or insurance agency to decide that a treatment was against their religion to decide not to treat it. But in the case of contraception pills and Catholic employers especially, deciding not to cover the pills on the religious basis that they'd be used for non-procreative sex is unfair. Sometimes contraceptive pills are used for medical reasons.

Why Care About The Blunt Amendment As a Disability Advocate?

I've known women with invisible disabilities whose doctors put them on a contraception pill to deal with medical issues. They may work for Catholic agencies and be directly affected by legislation like the Blunt Amendment. And I know that sometimes young women with severe disabilities are put a contraception pill to help them to regulate their menstrual period each month and make the experience easier for them to manage. If these young women are receiving their contraception pill through a parent's insurance plan, a parent who works for a Catholic agency, and suddenly it becomes legal for the agency's plan to no longer provide contraception pills, that young woman's life is affected.

Plus, women with disabilities are still women! They need to be concerned about the erosion of their rights just as much as any other woman does.

It *Is* About Access

My friend Geoff and I have had a running argument about whether this is about access to birth control. He is as troubled by all this as I am, but in a different way. He, like Blunt, saw Obama's ruling that all plans have to provide free contraception pills as an assault on religious liberty. Women can still get birth control, he says. No one is stopping them. They just have to pay for it. And at $2 a day, is that really a hardship?

My point is that, depending on how much your job pays, $2 a day *could* be a hardship. And when you don't have the money to pay for something, that makes it a matter of access.

American Women Don't Have to Worry...For Today

Obviously there's more nuance to this debate than I can get into today. The important thing is that The Blunt Amendment was struck down in the Senate, 51 to 48. Three votes isn't much of a margin, though. It leaves me with the same feeling that I had when I read that Welfare Benefit Reform had passed in Britain:

It doesn't bode well for any of us.

More views on the Blunt Amendment:



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