The Senate voted to table an amendment that would permit an employer to deny contraception coverage to their employees on Thursday morning, but the debate over birth control raged into the afternoon, as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Just moments after Senators defeated the so-called Blunt Amendment, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) accused Sebelius of lying about the administration’s rule requiring employers to provide birth control coverage in their health insurance plans and falsely insisted that religious organizations would be required to provide “abortifacient” drugs:
SEBELIUS: There also is no abortifacient drug that is part of the FDA approved contraception. What the rule for preventive care…
MURPHY: Ma’m that is not true…Is the morning after pill or something like that an abortifacient drug?
SEBELIUS: It is a contraceptive drug, not an abortifacient… It does not interfere with a pregnancy. If the morning pill were taken, and a female were pregnant, the pregnancy is not interrupted. That’s the definition of abortifation.
MURPHY: Ma’m that is your interpretation, and I appreciate that’s your interpretation.
SEBELIUS: That’s what the scientists and doctors…
MURPHY: We’re not talking about scientists. Ma’m we’re not talking about scientists here, we’re talking about religious belief. Ma’m, I’m asking you about a religious belief. In a religious belief, that is a violation of a religious belief.
When Sebelius went on to explain that the administration’s contraception rule “upholds religious liberty” by exempting houses of worship, religious nonprofits that primarily serve people of the same faith, and even religiously-affiliated hospitals and colleges from providing birth control, Murphy exclaimed, “Ma’m, ma’m, NO! NO! You’re Wrong!” “You’re setting up a rule that not even Jesus and his apostles could adhere too.” Watch it:
Regardless of what God may have told Murphy about the morning after pill, the administration’s guidance does not include drugs that can induce abortions. As the rule explains that insurers and employers must cover “Evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of A or B in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force)” and “the comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration.” The contraception language is included in the HRSA guidelines, which reads: “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” Those include:
Male Condom, Female Condom, Diaphragm with Spermicide, Sponge with Spermicide, Cervical Cap with Spermicide, Spermicide Alone, Oral Contraceptives (a.k.a. “the pill”), Patch, Vaginal Contraceptive Ring, Shot/Injection, Emergency Contraceptives, IUD, Implantable Rod, Vasectomy, Transcervical Surgical Sterilization Implant for women
These methods act to “prevent pregnancy before, and only before, fertilization occurs.” Emergency contraceptives like Plan B — which Murphy attempted to paint as an “abortion pill” — halts the union of sperm and oocyte and inhibits ovulation. It does not work after fertilization.