U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts apologized Thursday afternoon for making a joke about mammograms while Congress weighs a controversial proposal to roll back the Affordable Care Act.
A reporter from the website Talking Points Memo asked Roberts, a Dodge City Republican, about a demand hardline conservatives in the U.S. House are making to roll back the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits rule, which requires insurance plans to cover hospitalizations, maternity care and other services.
“I sure don’t want my mammogram benefits taken away,” Roberts joked, according to the website.
The joke inspired criticism from other members of Congress, who chastised Roberts on social media for his apparent disregard for the importance of the procedure, which is used to detect breast cancer in women and in men.
Roberts took to Twitter to apologize amid the growing backlash, saying that he deeply regrets his comments and calling mammograms essential to women’s health.
He elaborated on this point in an email, explaining that he knows women who have been saved by the procedure.
“I deeply regret my comments on such an important topic,” Roberts said. “I know several individuals whose lives have been saved by mammograms, and I recognize how essential they are to women’s health. I never intended to indicate otherwise, and I apologize for my comments.”
Lindsay Wise, the Star’s Washington correspondent, contributed to this report.