The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday June 9th

Senate halts measure to reverse contraceptive rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MCT) — A GOP-led attempt to roll back new rules requiring insurance companies to provide free contraceptive care was dismissed by the Senate — a rejection of a Republican pivot toward conservative social issues and a victory for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The 51-48 vote to table the Republican measure showed dissent among the GOP, as several Republican senators said the legislation was too broad for their support. Republicans say the new Obama administration policy is an affront to religious freedom, and an example of the administration’s regulatory overreach. The U.S. Catholic bishops oppose the rule.

“The reason that this amendment is being debated right now is that the administration issued an order that’s just unprecedented,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the bill’s chief sponsor. As part of the nation’s new health care law, employers would be required to offer free preventive care services in their insurance policies, including contraceptives. An exemption was made for churches and other religious organizations who object on moral grounds, and whose employees largely adhere to their beliefs.

Facing blowback from sought-after Catholic voters, the White House crafted a further compromise that tasked insurance companies with paying for the free care. The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and others support the new rule as a way to ensure Americans have access to what they call life-saving preventive health care.

The foray into social issues has divided the GOP at a time when socially conservative presidential candidate Rick Santorum continues to challenge Mitt Romney. Many Republicans believe the party should remain focused on jobs and the economy, issues most pressing among voters. Democrats have capitalized on the debate by portraying the GOP as out of touch with most women and turning back the clock on women’s health care.

Earlier this week Romney stumbled on the issue, first appearing to oppose the GOP measure sponsored by Blunt before his campaign clarified that he had misunderstood the question.

“I’m in favor of the Blunt amendment,” he told CBS News while working the rope line and signing autographs with voters in Fargo, N.D.

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