Senator Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor today calling for a equal and fair health care plan that allowed individuals and their doctors to be in charge of making their own health care decisions.
Below are Shaheen's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, over the last year my colleagues and I have come to the floor to speak out against the attack on women’s health. We have seen assaults on Planned Parenthood, on federal funding for family planning, and on contraception.
But now we are facing the Blunt Amendment, something more extreme and far reaching then we have seen in all their attempts to politicize women’s health.
This proposal would affect health care for not just women, but for all Americans. It will affect the care of our children, our husbands and our wives.
In short, the Blunt Amendment would let your boss make your health care decisions, instead of you and your doctor.
The amendment would empower corporations or any other employer to deny virtually any preventive or essential health service to any American based on any religious or moral objection.
Under the amendment, an employer could claim a moral or religious basis in order to deny things like coverage for HIV/AIDS screenings or counseling, prenatal care for single mothers, mammograms, vaccinations for children, or even screenings for Diabetes based on a moral objection to a perceived unhealthy lifestyle.
While the impact of this amendment could impact men, women and children, make no mistake -- at the most fundamental level, this debate is about a woman’s access to contraception.
Supporters of the amendment want to turn back the clock on women’s health. They want to deny women access to preventive health care services.
Birth control is something that most women use and it is something that the medical community believes is essential to the health of a woman and her family.
Contraception prevents unintended pregnancies. The US has the highest rate of unintended pregnancy in the developed world. Approximately one half of all pregnancies are unintended. Contraception can help turn this discouraging fact around.
Access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality. In fact, the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality estimated that ten percent of infant deaths could be prevented if all pregnancies were planned.
For some 1.5 million women, birth control pills are not used for contraception, but for medical purposes. It can reduce the risk of some cancers and is linked to overall good health outcomes.
As Governor of New Hampshire, I signed a law requiring health care plans to cover contraception with no religious exemptions. And I signed it with little uproar and no real controversy.
The bill in New Hampshire passed the Republican-led state legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. In fact, almost as many Republicans voted for the bill as Democrats.
It was understood by people on both sides of the aisle-- of all religious faiths-- that requiring contraceptive coverage was about women’s health and a basic health care decision. And now, after twelve years of the law being in place, we are seeing opposition for the first time.
It is so unfortunate that this debate about women’s health has become so politicized. It isn’t right.
I urge my colleague to oppose the Blunt Amendment. The decision about a woman’s health care should be between her, her doctor, her family and her faith.
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