In a close 51-48 vote on Thursday, the U.S. Senate rejected legislation that would have allowed employers to refuse to pay for health insurance coverage of specific services if it would be contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), was offered as an amendment to an unrelated transportation bill in response to new federal government rules regarding contraception coverage.
Controversy has erupted over a White House mandate, which requires virtually all private insurance policies to cover family planning, including female contraceptives, essentially guaranteeing near universal access to birth control once all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented.
On Wednesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) had slammed the Blunt amendment for allowing employers to dictate health decisions.
“When will my colleagues understand this very non-debatable fact, that the decision of whether a woman takes one medicine or another or what type of health care she should have access to should not be the decision of her boss?” Gillibrand said in a speech on the Senate floor.