Huffpost Denver
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jason Salzman Headshot

Who Should Decide Whether Birth Control Should Be Part of Health Insurance?

Posted: Updated:

In a 20-15 party-line vote last Friday, Democratic State Senators defeated a measure that would have given symbolic support to the so-called "Blunt" amendment, which would allow employers to opt out of offering health-insurance coverage for health services, including contraception, that employers find objectionable on religious or moral grounds.

Media coverage of the measure should have folded in more views from outside the state capitol, given the potential political ramifications of the issue, so I'm reporting a wider range of views to fill in the media gap.

Addressing the issue after the vote Friday, Colorado Republican Party Chair Ryan Call told Jon Caldara that in the national debate about whether the Obama Administration should have allowed employers to opt out of offering certain types of health care, like contraception, Republicans should have focused on "making it, rather than about big issues, making it about small issues."

"The big issue there," Call told Caldara, "was the question of religious liberty, about the government telling, not only religious organizations but private employers and persons what kind of health-care insurance they have to pay for, even if it violates questions of moral conscience."

Democrats, he said, "were able to, at least attempt, try to make it about those smaller issues, are we trying to ban contraceptives, which is not the issue."

"Horsepucky," was progressive political consultant Laura Chapin's response to call in a US News opinion piece:

"Approximately 99 percent of reproductive age American women have used birth control -- and something used by almost every woman in America isn't a small issue, it's huge," she wrote, adding that "it's obviously a big issue to Republicans."

"It's big enough that they threatened to shut down the entire U.S. government over it last spring," Chapin continued. "It's big enough that Republican governors like Mitch Daniels have made defunding Planned Parenthood a top priority, as has their presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney even wants to eliminate federal funding for Title X, which provides family planning funding for five million low-income Americans."

Senate Democrats in contested elections voted for the measure, including Colorado Senators Evie Hudak, Mary Hodge, and Linda Newell.

Senator Linda Newell, D-Littleton, took a different tack and argued that the memorial would be difficult for businesses to implement, before a pivot to the personal." Fox 31 reported Newell's view that the measure, called Senate Memorial 3, would be hard for business to comply with. Fox 31 reported:

"The problem for the businesses is this just opens up all kinds of liability disclosure issues," Newell said, noting that one of her two daughters was listening to Friday's debate inside the Senate chamber. "She wants to know what we're doing in the state of Colorado to protect her freedoms.

"Right to privacy goes out the window with this bill because now you have to disclose. And it puts my daughter's future boss right in the middle of her private life. They'll have to ask, Do you use birth control? Are you having sex?

"I want my daughters to have access to proven methods of preventing pregnancy. I want my daughters to have the ability to be healthy and free."

Larry Crowder, a Republican who's running to represent contested Senate District 35, told me he hadn't followed the debate at the state capitol, but he said: "In my opinion it should be up to that employer. I'm not really in favor of mandates."

"Health care provided by the employer is a great thing," Crowder said. "And it's an added tool to attract employees. If you're going to start putting a mandate on employers, what would be in the health care, that would be between the employee and the employer. As far as a mandate, I would not be comfortable with that."

As far as the symbolic resolution goes, Crowder said, "We've got more important issues to talk about and decide in the state than a nonbinding resolution. We should not get into the hype right now about nonbinding resolutions for political purposes."

He also said the question about employer mandates is "premature," with the U.S. Supreme Court reviewing Obamacare.

Republican Senate District 19 candidate Lang Sias had a similar view, saying jobs should be the focus. His likely opponent is Senator Hudak.

Senate District 28 Candidate John Lyons had been at work and hadn't had time to follow events at the State Capitol when I talked to him Friday, but he said, as a general matter, that this is "all about free market and government interference."

"It's up to the insurance companies to decide what they want to do and what they want to cover," he said. "If people had more choice and competition among insurance companies, this problem would be solved."

"Being a Republican, I don't believe it's the government's job to dictate what the insurance companies should offer and what they shouldn't," he said.

Lyons' Republican primary opponent, Art Carlson, agreed, saying: "I believe it's up to the companies. I just don't think it's up to the government to force companies to do something like that."