Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) surprised a lot of people earlier this week when he endorsed an unpopular, far-right proposal on contraception. Inexplicably, the ostensible moderate threw his support behind a plan to allow all private-sector employers to deny any health services that businesses might find morally objectionable, including access to birth control.
Brown talked to NECN, a regional network that covers Massachusetts, about his position, but failed to read up on the proposal he'd already endorsed. The video isn't embeddable, but Greg Sargent notes the conversation between the senator and reporter Jim Braude.
The reporter repeatedly pointed out that the measure goes much further than just exempting religious organizations from covering contraception; it also allows employers and insurers to refuse to cover any health service they find morally objectionable. Brown repeatedly insisted that the bill doesn't do this.
"You acknowledge that Senator Blunt's amendment that you're supporting goes far further than religious objections, no?" The reporter asked.
"No, I don't," Brown answered, adding that "one of the cornerstones of our Constitution" is "to allow for religious freedoms."
The reporter then incredulously pointed out that the bill also allows for denial of coverage due to "moral conviction," and pressed Brown again and again.
"That's the language," the reporter said. "I'm repeating it verbatim, Senator Brown."
The senator, who probably hasn't looked at the bill he supports, simply didn't believe it. Brown kept arguing that the Blunt Amendment is only about religious freedom.
He's wrong. The Republican proposal aims to allow all private-sector employers to deny any health services that businesses might find morally objectionable. Do you work for a grocery store owner who opposes contraception? You're out of luck. How about an accounting firm that doesn't like HIV tests? Too bad. Are you an employee at a factory that finds cervical cancer screenings offensive? Good luck to you.
As Adam Serwer reported this week, the Blunt Amendment would make the moral exemptions so broad, no employer would have to cover anything they had a moral objection to -- period.
Brown thinks the proposal is little more than a modest plan to ensure a religious exemption. There are really only two options here: (1) Brown didn't read the amendment before endorsing it; or (2) he read it but didn't understand it.
As a result, the senator is taking a beating from reporters who know better. Brown not only looked foolish during this NECN interview, but the Boston Globe's Yvonne Abraham asked, "What is Senator Scott Brown thinking? ... Can it really help Brown to suddenly go all Santorum on us?" The Boston Herald's Margery Eagan added that the senator "has sided with nuts."