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.