Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor to fight back against the extreme Blunt Amendment, the latest Republican attack on women’s health.
Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:
It is with great disappointment and bafflement that I stand here yet again in the year 2012 to draw a line in the sand against another outrageous attempt to roll back women’s access to basic health care services. After insisting that we debate the long-settled concept of providing access to birth control when 99 percent of American women use this medication at some point in their life, many of whom use it not even for contraception, Republicans have chosen to take another extreme step to roll back all women’s health care rights.
So instead of talking about how to grow our economy, we are wasting time on the latest overreach and intrusion into women’s lives. 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? A commonsense, simple principle that bosses and employers should not make these very personal decisions. What could be more intrusive than that? Let me be clear. This debate, as you said, Senior Senator from New York, Mr. President, as you said in your remarks, this has nothing to do with religious freedom. You don’t have to take it from me. Take it from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices of our Supreme Court. In the majority decision in 1990, Employment Division v. Smith, Justice Scalia wrote, “we have never held an individual’s religious belief excused him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting that the state is free to regulate.” That is what we’re seeing here. Employers cannot pick or choose which laws they’re going to follow. Employers can’t pick or choose if they want to follow this labor law or that labor law. They have to follow the law.
This extreme amendment Republicans are bringing up for a vote today makes it clear as day, this is a political and ideological overreach, not a religious issue. The fact that they want to exempt all businesses from providing any preventive care for a woman is outrageous and a clear, callous disregard of the health and well-being of America’s women. The Blunt Amendment would allow any insurer or employer to refuse coverage for any health care service otherwise required under the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing vital and necessary health care for millions of Americans, services like prenatal care that help our babies survive, fertility treatments, testing for HIV, mental health services, screening for cervical cancer, screening for type 2 diabetes, vaccinations, coverage for any or all of these services and countless of others could be denied to any person under this radically broad amendment.
This amendment isn’t just dangerous for women. It’s also dangerous to our children, and children’s health groups are opposing this amendment because vaccines could be denied on the basis of personal beliefs. And denying childhood preventive care could negatively influence their health as adults, adding billions of dollars in additional health care costs throughout the lives of these children as they grow.
We will not stand for these attempts to undermine the ability of a woman to make her own decisions about what is best for her and what is best to protect her children. If our Republican colleagues want to continue to take on this issue head on, we will stand here as often as necessary to draw a line in the sand and to make it known that in the Senate we oppose these attacks on women’s rights and women’s health. And even if House Republicans aren’t going to allow women’s voices to be heard in their hearings, women’s voices will surely be heard all across our country.
It’s time to agree that women deserve access to preventive health care services regardless of where they work and who their boss is. And it is time to agree to get back to work on legislation that can create jobs and get our economy moving. That is what the American people want us to be debating. That is what our mission should be here in Congress. And that is where our sole focus should be, not on undermining protections and well-being for America’s women.