Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sen. Levin: Statement on protecting women's health

Sen. Carl Levin's Senate Floor Statement
Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Mr. President, the amendment we are considering today represents a direct assault on access to preventative health care services for millions of women in this country. The ostensible purpose of this proposal is to protect the rights of conscience of any employer or healthcare insurer, religious or secular, who may have a religious or moral objection to providing family planning services free of charge to their employees. I respect and will defend the moral values of employers and insurance companies. But I also respect the moral values of people who need medical services. So we will end up deciding whether or not to deny access to critical and possibly lifesaving health services for millions of people in this country, not whose religious or moral values have precedence.

As drafted, Senator Blunt’s amendment would grant employers and health insurance companies the power to deny access to not just preventative healthcare services for women, but any healthcare service, for anyone, regardless of its nature. This means any employer could chose to deny employees insurance coverage for such things as children’s immunizations; mammograms; lifesaving cancer treatments; or blood transfusions simply because that employer may find these or any other healthcare services morally objectionable.

For the Senate to pass such a policy would be indefensible. It would go far beyond nullifying the administration’s rule to implement provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring access to some preventative services at no cost. Instead, this amendment would codify infringement on personal healthcare decisions, would grant an employer the right to substitute his moral convictions for those of his employees, and would effectively deny access to critical healthcare services.

Considering that some of my colleagues vociferously defend the idea of personal liberties, I am truly surprised they would support a policy to undermine those same liberties by handing power over an individual’s personal healthcare decisions to that individual’s employer or his insurance company.

This body took a bold and historic step by enacting healthcare reform in 2010. We accomplished something that had eluded the country and the Congress for decades. The law recognizes that women have specific medical needs and that gaps have historically existed in preventive care for women. And it correctly called for specific steps to address that. We should not now support policies that would not only walk these advances back, but take giant leaps backwards in access to healthcare services for everyone. I urge our colleagues to vote against this amendment.

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