Reflecting an ongoing controversy in Washington, D.C., New Hampshire's House of Representatives Wednesday approved a bill to exempt employers with religious or moral objections from provisions of a state law requiring health insurance plans to provide coverage for contraception. The bill passed in the heavily Republican House by a vote of 196-150 after a spirited debate, with arguments for religious liberty met with vigorous objections to limits on women's access to reproductive health services.
"It is unconstitutional to force religious institutions to pay for products they object to on religious grounds," said Rep. Andrew Manuse, (R- Derry, photo) a sponsor of the bill. "I object to the idea that government can force religious organizations to pay for products or procedures that are in conflict with their teaching." But opponents argued that the bill would allow not just religious institutions but any employer who claimed a moral or religious objection to exclude contraception coverage in a health plan for employees. Arguing that the bill was more about opposing contraception than defending religious freedom, Rep. Christopher Serlin (D-Portsmouth) wondered aloud why the legislation does not allow an employer of the Jehovah's Witness faith to exclude coverage for blood transfusions from an employee health plan.
"If we took the question of constitutional protection and religious faith to the extreme , polygamy would still be legal in Utah now," Serlin argued.
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