Scott Brown: Include Women on the Front Lines, Exclude Women from Birth Control?

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BOSTON, Mass. – Yesterday, Massachusetts’ Republican junior Senator, Scott Brown, submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging him to expand opportunities on the front lines of battle for women serving in our nation’s armed forces.  Excerpts from the letter include:

As a 32-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I believe women should be able to serve in front line positions if they desire. […]

Closing these opportunities to women affect their ability to develop a career path in the military and advance to higher ranks. We have an obligation to expand the professional opportunities available to women, especially considering their sacrifices.

This raises a peculiar question for Senator Brown: Why does he believe that women are smart enough, strong enough, patriotic enough, courageous enough, and thoughtful enough to fight on the front lines of battle in our military, yet he thinks it’s justifiable that they can be excluded from birth control coverage at home?

The Obama Administration’s compromise on contraception coverage specifically shifts the requirement of coverage from religious organizations to the insurance companies themselves, thereby allowing religious organizations to avoid conflicts with their religious beliefs while ensuring that women receive the health care coverage that they require.  However, instead of displaying leadership, bipartisanship, and basic consideration for women’s health care, Senator Brown instead chose to support the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny coverage for any medication or procedure for any reason they deem “moral,” a standard so vague it effectively allows for the potential denial of coverage for anything.

Boston Herald, 2/16/12, “Contraception bill bad choice for Scott Brown,” Margery Eagan

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has co-sponsored a bill that would allow health plans to deny coverage both for contraception and any service that violates the planners’ beliefs.

It was a huge mistake. […]

No matter how he explains this latest move, underneath it all there’s an unspoken message: There is something morally wrong with a loving husband and wife using contraception to prevent pregnancy.

That’s crazy.

Boston Globe, 2/16/12, “Blunt words for Brown,” Yvonne Abraham

What is Senator Scott Brown thinking?

This is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know: Why would a Republican hoping to be reelected in Massachusetts leap headlong onto Missouri Senator Roy Blunt’s slippery-slope? […]

It allows any employer, religious or otherwise, to opt out of Affordable Care Act rules requiring a minimum level of health insurance, freeing them to deny coverage for things they find morally objectionable.

So any Catholic employer could refuse to cover contraception, not just a Catholic hospital or university. A Jehovah’s Witness who believes blood transfusions are against God’s will could refuse to provide coverage for those. A Muslim who believes the polio vaccine is haraam could refuse to cover it for employees’ children.

And just like that, Blunt has brought us to Crazyland, a place far beyond the issue of contraception, not to mention common sense. What’s mystifying is that Brown has followed him there.

Boston Phoenix, 2/22/12, “Scott Brown, Crazy Person: The senator joins the Republican cult against birth control,” Editorial

When Massachusetts junior senator Scott Brown last week signed on to support a Republican initiative to nullify President Barack Obama’s birth-control compromise, Brown joined the vast and growing right-wing war on women. […]

The GOP scheme would allow any business, not just those allied with a religion, to opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control if the business deemed contraception to conflict with its moral or religious beliefs.

Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has rightly called the Republican proposal an attempt to keep women “barefoot and pregnant.”

Brown’s fellow Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, may not have found Obama’s birth-control compromise perfect, but they have said, in effect, that it is perfectly workable.

NECN, 2/15/12, “Scott Brown: ‘I support a conscience exemption in health care’,” Jim Braude interview with Scott Brown

I read the introduction to this bill today, and it doesn’t just say “religious beliefs;” it says “moral convictions.” […]

It seems to me that’s a loophole you could drive a truck through.

MetroWest Daily News / Milford Daily News, 2/19/12, “Holmes: Women, Republicans and birth control,” Rick Holmes

Among those co-sponsoring Blunt’s bill: Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is usually smart enough to avoid these traps, or at least his advisers are. Brown was applauded for this act by the Mass. Citizens for Life, which should be a hint to any reasonably informed Bay State politician. How many decades has it been since they won a political fight?

If Brown had consulted with a few independent women voters, who are essential if he is to survive a challenge from Democrat Elizabeth Warren in November, he’d think twice about trying to make political hay from contraception.

They would have told him, I expect, that they don’t want anyone meddling with their sex lives or their family planning decisions. Not the government, not their employer, and not someone else’s priest.

Springfield Republican, 2/20/12, “Scott Brown’s decision to side with conservatives on conscience exemption issue could mean political gain or disaster,” Robert Rizzuto

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s decision to align himself with conservatives this week could spell disaster for his re-election campaign in Massachusetts, or it may bring in even more money from outside the state. […]

The bill would allow employers to deny insurance coverage of any procedure or prescription, as long as they say it violates their faith, belief or morals.

Brown has invoked the name of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in defending his position, but Kennedy supported a narrow conscience exemption for religious people and institutions, not a broad proposal as offered up by Blunt.

In fact, the only members of the media that seem to be defending Republican Scott Brown’s position against contraception coverage are far-right-wing outlets like The Weekly Standard, and National Review.