You know who was right about contraceptive coverage? Scott Brown – in 2002

Team Desperation – the moniker by which it now seems appropriate to refer to Scott Brown’s campaign and its allies – has been working overtime to try to justify Scott Brown’s invoking Ted Kennedy’s name in the Crazy Blunt Amendment brouhaha.  And, lo and behold, they have dug up a couple of nuggets suggesting that, almost 20 years ago, some Democrats floated the idea of allowing employers and health insurers to limit coverage based on “religious belief or moral conviction.”

Now, legislation is complicated, so it’s impossible to say for sure without further study whether these provisions would have done exactly what our differently-winged friends say, and there are good arguments that it wouldn’t.  But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Team Desperation is right: that, in the 1990s, Democrats including George Mitchell, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Ted Kennedy, sponsored or backed legislation that included overly broad “conscience clauses” that allowed insurers and employers to refuse coverage for any health care services that ran contrary to their “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions.”

If they did, they were wrong.  Simple as that.  These provisions are so broad that you could drive a truck (containing AIDS treatment, for example) through them.  I’d love to know whether anyone actually debated these provisions when they were filed, and whether their defects were ever pointed out to their sponsors.  I’m guessing the answer is “no.”

In any event, Massachusetts, as usual, got it right where others got it wrong.  In 2002, you see, our legislature overwhelmingly approved a law (which is still on the books today) requiring health insurance to cover “contraceptive services” on the same terms as other outpatient services and prescription drugs.  There is a narrow exception for churches and for church-run elementary and secondary schools, but not for other religiously-affiliated institutions, nor for “moral convictions.”

The bill was controversial and was opposed by the Boston Archdiocese, and some social conservatives like then-Speaker Tom Finneran voted against it.  But not Scott Brown.  He, along with all but one of his fellow Republicans in the House (where he was at the time), voted in favor of the very mandate that he now finds so onerous.

I do wish someone would ask Scott why he changed his mind on this.

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6 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. It seems that

    Mr. Brown is a fair-weather winger!

    Though it baffles me that he would run away from his own record on this, in a reelection campaign where his former vote in 2002 would be far more appealing to the MA electorate he needs to court (indys and center-leaning registered Dems) than his Blunt extremism.

    The media needs to ask him in his very very next interview, “If you are supporting the Blunt amendment so adamantly on the grounds of religious freedom, why then did you not side with the Catholic Church in 2002 when you voted for a mandate that religious-run institutions like universities and hospitals pay for contraception coverage?”

  2. He's not much more than a talking-point machine.

    He’s provided precious little evidence that he can think for himself on the national stage.

  3. a bad bill is a bad bill

    The section of the bill cited deals exclusively with abortion.
    It was a bad bill then and still is. Who knows, in 1993 they tried for universal health care, met with the same obstacles, and probably had to use this language as part of a larger compromise.
    Even with such language, the bill never made it, so much for compromise.

    That Brown would reverse course and lock onto something like this in order to try and tank the Affordable health Care Act speaks volumes about his “moral convictions.”

  4. I don't understand the political

    calculations behind his co-sponsoring the Blunt Amendment. In the end, it’s a loser because most voters agree with the President and his compromise. The National Journal reports:

    More than half of American voters – 54 percent — approve of President Obama’s compromise that would have insurance companies pay for birth control for employees of religious-affiliated institutions, according to the latest Quinnipiac University national poll, released on Thursday. Just 38 percent said they disapproved, the telephone poll of 2,605 registered voters found.

    The survey, conducted last week at the height of the controversy over the new policy, suggests that Democrats have the upper hand in defining the issue as one of women’s health, as opposed to Republican efforts to frame it as religious freedom.

    This isn’t a wedge issue for Catholics. It isn’t a wedge issue for independents. There is no political advantage in this for Scott Brown. As we see from above, he has no strong beliefs on the issue. His handlers are telling him to say Ted Kennedy agreed with him when it’s very clear from the former’s letter to the Pope, that he’s not talking about Catholic health care professionals and abortion. That a a kind of asshat rhetorical move that conservatives get a kick out of, but no one else appreciates.

    I’m starting to think the internal polling by the Brown campaign is making them act desperate, though the Mass GOP has proved pretty incompetent in the past.

    • I think it was a simple...

      … political mistake. He probably looked at the issue from the lens of the punditocracy. From that point of view, it’s a winner among conservatives.

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