Last week, responding to an outcry from Catholic leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the Obama administration modified regulations requiring insurers and employers to provide contraception as part of their health care plans without additional co-payments. Under the new rule, religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that raise religious objections to birth control can decline the benefit and their employees will still receive contraception coverage directly from the insurer.
Most Republicans are not satisfied with the modification, however, and are co-sponsoring legislation that would significantly broaden the conscience exclusion. On Monday night, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) joined the pack, with a spokesperson telling the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that the senator “appreciates President Obama’s willingness to revisit this issue, but believes it needs to be clarified through legislation” that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it.
But Massachusetts already requires insurers to carry contraceptive coverage for women and Brown voted for the provision as a member of the Massachusetts House on Jan. 30, 2002, ThinkProgress has learned. At the time, the Catholic Conference of Massachusetts, lobbied against the measure and urged lawmakers to adopt an amendment exempting organizations that are affiliated with the Catholic church or have a moral objection to contraception. Brown supported that provision, but once it failed in a vote of 106 to 49, he voted ‘YES’ on the underlying bill, which only exempted “an employer that is a church or qualified church-controlled organization” from offering birth control:
Since Obama’s new federal standard would allow church-affiliated nonprofits to eschew birth control coverage, it could offer greater conscience protections to Massachusetts’ Catholic colleges, universities, and hospitals. For instance, if Boston College is required to provide birth control under the Brown-approved law, it could drop the coverage — and leave the matter to its insurer — under Obama’s regulation.
Interestingly, Brown also voted for a 2005 bill mandating hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, even after lawmakers defeated his amendment to allow religious hospitals to opt out of the requirement. Brown split with then-Gov. Mitt Romney on the matter and joined the legislature in overriding his veto.
Brown’s office did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.