Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley gathered with women’s health advocates today to denounce a Senate amendment that would deny health insurance coverage to women for birth control and any essential, preventive health care service if their employer has a religious or moral objection.  Senator Merkley stressed that this amendment, led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), would be disastrous to women’s health.

“This amendment is an attack on women’s health care and must be defeated,” said Merkley. “I am here today to make it clear that women’s health is a priority and access to preventive health care benefits should be a right for all women.”

Senator Merkley emphasized that the proposed Blunt amendment would jeopardize critical health care coverage for millions of working Americans, and result in an expansive intrusion into employees’ personal health insurance plans. The legislation would give insurers and employers authority to deny services, while offering no protection for employees and families to receive the care they need—including maternity care, vaccines, blood transfusions and HIV/AIDS treatment. The giant loophole would dismantle critical protections in the Affordable Care Act and discriminate against at-risk populations. 

Senator Merkley was joined at today’s event by David Vernier, owner of Vernier Software, who spoke about how he, as an employer, shouldn’t be able to pick and choose which preventive health care benefits his employees receive.  Dr. Helen Bellanca also spoke at the event and described the benefits to women and their families that occur from preventive health care services and access to contraception.

This amendment is being offered to the Senate transportation bill and is expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate next week.