WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Thursday on a measure that would allow employers to refuse to pay for contraception coverage as a matter of conscience.

WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Thursday on a measure that would allow employers to refuse to pay for contraception coverage as a matter of conscience.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., a co-sponsor of the measure, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday in favor of approving the amendment to a pending transportation bill.

“The president’s mandate refuses to acknowledge that the Constitution guarantees conscience protections,” Boozman said. “The amendment’s goal is commendable … It simply asks the president to respect the religious liberties of Americans.”

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said Wednesday that he could not support the amendment as drafted because it was too broadly written.

“I’m leaning toward voting against it. I don’t think it is precise enough,” he said.

The issue erupted earlier this year over an Obama administration rule that would have required religiously affiliated organizations to provide birth control coverage to employees at no extra charge.

The Catholic Church objected to having to provide such coverage to employees of their hospitals and other affiliated programs. A compromise was struck that satisfied the Church but not everyone.

The measure, proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was hotly debated Wednesday on the Senate floor and fell largely along party lines.

Supporters, including Boozman, said the amendment is a matter of protecting religious freedom. Opponents claimed it was an attack on women’s health.

“Since this Congress began, we have seen assaults on Planned Parenthood, on federal funding for family planning and on contraception,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “But, now we’re facing the Blunt amendment, which is even more extreme and far-reaching than we’ve seen in all those other attempts to politicize women’s health.”

A similar measure has also been introduced in the House and has been co-sponsored by Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.