Floor Updates

Mikulski, Shaheen, Murray

Morning Business

Feb 07 2012

05:46 PM

Senator Mikulski: (5:01 PM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "I find it troubling that instead of focusing on our preventative health services, we're focusing on birth control. Birth control was never the focus of health care reform. It was a recommendation to be included in the benefit that came from the Institute of Medicine. Now, there is another confusion out there about mandating churches against doing something against their will. I want to draw the distinction about what the bill does between mandating the provision of service and providing insurance coverage. The bill does include insurance coverage, but there is no place in the bill that mandates a religious organization provide something against their principle, that's providing the service. So if you are St. Mary's hospital, you do not have to give out birth control in your women's health clinic. If you are Notre Dame University or Georgetown University or another - or a catholic woman's college, you do not have to give out birth control in your student health clinic. What the Obama-Sebelius regulations say is there has to be insurance coverage to those, particularly to those who are non-catholic and for all of us who go to these wonderful institutions and benefit from their services, they are nondiscriminatory in who they hire. You don't have to be catholic to teach at a catholic college. You don't have to be catholic to work at a catholic hospital. You don't have to attend - you don't have to be catholic. so these institutions hire people of a variety of religious preferences. So i don't want to get into a debate on the first amendment, but I do welcome a debate on what the health care bill did and what it intended. The health care bill, I felt, was one of the greatest social justice initiatives that I participated in the senate. It was going to work in an organized and an effective way to make sure that we were on the road, that every American had access to affordable care and then we removed the barriers to that which were not only financial but often these discriminatory practices, these punitive practices that often were directed against women and the preexisting condition or in gender discrimination and the way they set their pricing and the other thing was the best care was preventative care, and one of the tools well known in the public health field were these screen tests that we worked to provide and also we turn to the eminent and distinguished people in learned societies, in this case the institute of medicine to tell us, not based on politics, but to tell us based on science what should be these benefits, and they added contraceptive coverage. So that's the history. I hope it clears up the misinformation, but we did work to move our citizens to greater health care, remove the financial and other societal barriers to getting health care in our society and a fantastic emphasis on prevention. We have gotten off to the wrong debate, and we - and the wrong discussion. Let's get back to talking about how we improve the health care of women and how we can keep moving one of our preventative aspects that not only help women but help the men who so love us and support us, and we want to return the favor by making sure they get their screening, too."

Senator Shaheen: (5:14 PM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "Almost two years ago, Congress, this institution, voted to end discrimination against women by to seek referrals to see the health specialists they need and voted to give women greater access to affordable preventive health care services, including contraception. These are important historic advances for women's health and they should not fall victim to ideological policies. Over the last several weeks, we've seen women all across this country stand up in huge numbers to support women's health. That grassroots support will be needed again and again to stave off ideological attacks on women's health care. Over the past year, House Republicans have repeatedly attempted to both eliminate funding for title 10 family planning and to defund Planned Parenthood. Thankfully, we've been able to block these attempts in the senate. 97% of the reproductive health services provided by Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire and across the country are preventive care, and as we all know, preventive health care lowers health care costs and safe lives - saves lives. We are reminded of the important role Planned Parenthood plays in preventive health when the Susan K. Komen foundation decided to end its contracts with the provider. It's up fair to politicize women's health in the way we saw played out in the media last week. Women from across the country let their voices be heard. The 750,000 women who received breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics with support from the Komen foundation deserve better. They didn't ask to be thrown into the political fire. They merely sought detention and treatment against a life-threatening disease. I'm pleased that Komen reversed that decision. I also commend the President for standing up for women's health and reaffirming the recommendation of the institute of medicine to protect access to affordable birth control for all women. The decision requiring health plans to cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles will improve the lives of millions of women and their families. Birth control pills can cost up to $600 a year. Study have shown that it costs employers as much as 17% more to exclude contraceptive coverage and health plans than to provide such coverage. Birth control is also a fundamental health care issue. Doctors and public health experts agree that increased access to birth control prevents unintended pregnancies. It is directly linked to declines in infant and mortality and a reduction in ovarian cancer. It is linked to overall good health outcomes. Permanent and temporary contraception is critical for family planning purposes but many women, a full 14%, use birth control for medical and health reasons, including helping to reduce the risk of some cancers, treatment for end owe endometriosis, serious infections and cysts. Now, let's be clear. In talking about the benefits of birth control, I'm not telling women they must use it. The decision on whether or not to pursue contraception is an individual choice that each woman must make for herself with her family. No part of the affordable care act or the President's ruling regarding insurance coverage forces any woman to use contraception. However, birth control will now be affordable and accessible for any woman who in consultation with her doctor decides that she needs or wants to use it. The policy represents one of the greatest advances for women's health in decades."

Senator Murray: (5:23 PM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women's health since the moment they came into power. After campaigning across the country a year and a half ago on a platform of jobs and the economy, the first three bills that they introduced were direct attacks on women's health in America. The very first one, H.R. 1, would have totally eliminated title 10 funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention. It included an amendment that would have completely defunded Planned Parenthood and cut off support for the millions of women in this country who count on it. Another one of their opening rounds of bills would have permanently codified the Hyde amendment and the DC abortion ban and the original version of their bill didn't even include an exception for the health of the mother and finally, they introduced a bill right away that would have rolled back every single one of the gains we made for women in the health care reform bill. Their bill would have removed the caps on out-of-pocket expenses that protect women from losing their homes or their life savings if they get sick. It would have ended the ban on lifetime limits on coverage. It would have allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums or even denying women care because of the so-called preexisting conditions. Conditions like being pregnant and, Mr. President, it would have rolled back the guarantee that insurance companies cover contraceptives which will save the overwhelming majority of women who use them hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year. Now, we know that insuring access to effective birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, to reduced risk of ovarian cancer, better overall health outcomes for women and far fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions which is a goal that we all share and, Mr. President, contraceptive coverage shouldn't be a controversial issue. It is supported by the vast majority of Americans who understand how important it is for women and families and I also want to note that the affordable contraceptive policy we put in place preserves the freedoms of conscience and religion for every American. Churches and other religious institutions are exempt and no doctor would ever have to dispense contraceptives if that's at odds with his or her religious views but it also protects the rights of the millions of Americans who do use contraceptives, who believe that family planning is the right choice for them personally, and who don't deserve to have politics or an extreme minority's ideology prevent them from getting the coverage that they deserve."