We learned last week that six Republican senators and 15 House Republicans co-sponsored an interesting bill in 2001. Though it seems hard to believe now, these 21 GOP lawmakers backed a measure to require insurance plans to cover contraceptive prescriptions.
As it turns out, they weren’t the only ones. Igor Volsky takes a closer look at Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) background on this issue.
Massachusetts already requires insurers to carry contraceptive coverage for women and Brown voted for the provision as a member of the Massachusetts Assembly 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. […]
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.
In the case of the GOP senators who took a progressive approach to this issue 11 years ago, there’s been no flip-flopping. Only two of those six are still in the chamber, but both have taken a fairly sensible line on the issue.
But Brown is a very different story. The Massachusetts Republican not only disagrees with his moderate GOP colleagues, he’s also endorsed a far-right proposal to allow all private-sector employers to deny any health services that businesses might find morally objectionable, including access to contraception.
Common sense suggests Brown has this backwards. In an election year, he’s running in a traditionally Democratic state against a very credible Democratic opponent, but Brown is (a) abandoning the line he embraced when serving in Boston; (b) siding with the most conservative wing of his party against contraception access; and (c) moving to the right, despite polls suggesting strong mainstream support for the president’s policy.
The senator has not yet explained why he was for contraception access before he was against it, but I’ll look forward to his rationalization on the switch.