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The Blunt Wedge

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There's a species of genius in the amendment offered by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that the Senate will be voting on today. It takes the principle of religious liberty, which all Americans are honor-bound to embrace, and weaponizes it against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), defeat of which the Republican Party has made its central policy objective. What, really, could be cleverer than establishing Obamacare as anti-religion? The arithmetic is: Individual Mandate + Contraception Mandate = GOP Victory.

So long, of course, as the American people don't see the Blunt Amendment as an exercise in denying women contraception coverage. In fact, the amendment says nothing at all about contraception. It merely--merely--asserts that "health care stakeholders retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, without fear of being penalized or discriminated against under PPACA." To be sure, this is only about Obamacare, not (for example) all those state contraception coverage mandates. As Blunt himself says, the amendment "would not impact existing state laws, and it does not address any other law other than President Obama’s flawed health care plan." Which may or may not explain why Mitt Romney was against it before he was for it.

The core GOP talking point, articulated on the floor of the Senate yesterday by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, is that religious liberty is an absolute right. Of course Cornyn, who spent seven years on the Texas Supreme Court, doesn't really believe that. If he did, he'd support the constitutional right of fundamentalist Mormons to engage in polygamous marriages, instead of warning, as he did at Senate hearing in 2004, that a failure to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage would result in polygamy being legalized by some court.

Like every other constitutional right, the free exercise of religion does not mean that anything goes in the name of religion. Once upon a time, we might have been able to have a reasoned public discussion about how best to balance religious liberty against other rights and interests. Not today.

Update: And the Senate votes to table the amendment, 51-48. But don't expect the issue to go away.

Later update: As TPM reports.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, licensed by Creative Commons.

Topics: Politics, Law & Court
Tags: contraception mandate

Comments

  1. Mark,
    Well said.

    Indeed, reasoned discourse is lost now. But thats because reason has nothing to do with what the religious Right/GOP/“Party of God” are interested in.

    This whole obscene mess has morphed into a bizarre battle of religiously induced rejection of contraception, demonization of pre-natal testing, and an obsessive involvement with a women’s uterus.  The health care provision isn’t about war on religion or the freedom to practice it.  It’s a war BY religionists on womens health and their rights to control their own bodies.

    If some in congress- extremist fanatics like Rick Santorum- had their way there would be no contraception and no prenatal testing, for surely offending their god’s sensibilities (as they perceive them to be)  is considerably more important than a woman not wanting to become pregnant, or ensuring any health issues with her unborn child are detetected early. They would happily turn back the clock to the early 20th century when everything was just perfect because women were happy to be kept barefoot, pregnant, and interuterine testing was unknown.

    The American public may be easily duped, but they aren’t complete idiots. Trying to pass measures that appeases the demands of a cult of mysogenistic sexless old men who neither bear or support children, (but evidently see them as a source of gratification more often than they like to adimt), while spitting in the face of 98% of women who emply birth control and demand to retain rights over their bodies is the epitome of GOP overreach and religiously inspired stupidity. 

    They will pay at the polls for this.

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  4. The health care provision
    isn’t about war on religion or the freedom to practice it.  It’s a war BY religionists on womens health and their rights to control their own bodies.

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