Missouri legislators passed a bill Friday that allows employers or health insurance providers to stop offering coverage for contraception, abortion, or sterilization if doing so violates their religious or moral convictions. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has not said whether he supports the legislation.
The measure mirrors a federal restriction proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that has not progressed in Congress and is designed to push back against the Obama administration’s rule requiring contraception coverage to be included in insurance plans at no additional cost.
While some Democrats opposed the anti-contraception bill, it passed the Senate 28-6 and the House 105-33:
The bill states that no employer or health plan provider can be compelled to provide coverage _ or be penalized for refusing to cover _ abortion, contraception or sterilization if those items run contrary to their religious or moral convictions. The bill also gives the state attorney general grounds to sue other governmental officials or entities that infringe on the rights granted in the legislation.
“This bill is about religious freedom and moral convictions,” said Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo. “This is about sending a message to the federal government that we don’t like things rammed down our throat.”
But state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the bill endangering women’s access to health care was more of an attack on “women’s reproductive choices” than a message to the federal government. “This is wrong and I dare you to go home and talk to your daughters … and say, ‘Look, what we’re going to say is that your employers’ religious beliefs matter more than your own,’” Newman told colleagues.
In 2006, 53 percent of pregnancies in Missouri were unintended, 61 percent of which resulted in live births and 25 percent resulted in induced abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 65 percent of births that were unintended were publicly funded, compared to 50 percent of all births and 37 percent of intended pregnancies.