On Friday, a federal judge blocked a pro-life Missouri law that provides religious exemptions to the abortion pill mandate. The law requires insurers to exclude birth control coverage for moral objectors but the federal judge ruled it conflicts with the mandate.
The law allows individuals, employers and insurers to cite religious or moral exemptions from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception, and sterilization. It also gives the state attorney general — or other individuals and entities — grounds to file lawsuits claiming an infringement of rights if they are compelled to cover contraception. The law also provides the extra safeguard of giving Missourians grounds on which to sue should their religious exemptions be violated.
According to an AP report:
The temporary restraining order halts the Missouri law just three months after the Republican-led Legislature enacted it by overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.
U.S. District Judge Audry Fleissig wrote in her order that there “appears to be an irreconcilable conflict” between the state and federal laws that puts insurance companies in an awkward position. If they were to comply with Missouri’s law, insurers could be subject to federal penalties for not abiding by the contraception mandate. Yet insurers also could face financial penalties from the state insurance department for failing to follow the Missouri law.
“Insurers are placed in an untenable position as they cannot comply with both statues at the same time,” Fleissig wrote, noting that the U.S. Constitution gives preference to federal laws over state laws.
State Sen. John Lamping, a Republican from suburban St. Louis who sponsored the law, said he was neither surprised nor discouraged by the court ruling.
“That’s the logical thing that I thought would ultimately occur post-election,” when Obama defeated Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, he said. “Clearly, this is an issue at the federal level that remains unresolved.”
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The bill passed through the state senate on a 26-6 vote and through the house on a 109-45 vote.
The Missouri Catholic Conference contends this law, if enforced, would protect freedom of conscience by “[upholding] religious liberty in a very practical way.” And this means that “under this bill, no one can be forced to pay for surgical abortions, abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives or sterilizations when this violates their moral or religious beliefs.”