The Missouri General Assembly has given overwhelming approval to legislation opposing the Obama Administration’s abortion drug mandate. The Legislature granted final passage to a bill sponsored by Senator John Lamping of Clayton which stands in opposition to the contraceptive edict issued by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Under that federal mandate, every health insurance policy sold in the United States must include coverage for every contraceptive approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That includes the abortifacient drugs Ella and Plan B, often marketed as “emergency contraceptives.” Every health insurance provider must include this contraceptive coverage as a “preventative service” in the basic benefits package they offer.
The bill approved by the Missouri Legislature states that no employee or employer can be forced to purchase health insurance coverage which includes abortion, contraception, or sterilization, if those items or procedures are contrary to their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The bill provides that no governmental entity can penalize an employee or employer for declining or refusing to purchase or provide such coverage.
The Missouri House and Senate approved the legislation by impressive majorities that appear capable of overriding a gubernatorial veto. The Senate adopted the bill by a vote of 28-6. The House endorsed the bill by a vote of 105-33.
Contrary to the claims and suggestions of some of the bill’s supporters, the legislation does not block or nullify the Obama Administration’s abortion drug mandate in Missouri. A state law cannot supersede or negate a federal law or regulation. Should Governor Jay Nixon sign the bill or allow it to become law, its key provisions would only take effect under three scenarios.
One would be if a new President were elected who would direct a new Director of the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw or revoke the contraceptive mandate. Another would be if a new Congress were to successfully repeal the mandate. A third scenario would be if a federal court were to invalidate the regulation as an unconstitutional infringement of religious liberty.
One provision of Lamping’s bill that would take effect if it became law involves employees who are enrolled in group health plans. Individual employees would have the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions in their group policy. This same exclusion right currently exists in Missouri law for contraception.
The abortion exclusion would only impact group health insurance plans sold outside of the health insurance exchanges established under President Obama’s health care law. Missouri law already provides that plans sold through the health insurance exchanges cannot cover abortion in the first place.
The federal contraceptive and abortion drug mandate takes effect on August 1st for almost all health insurance plans. Religious institutions have been given an extension until August 1st of 2013 to comply.
The Catholic Church in the United States is making it clear that they have no intention to comply. The Archdiocese of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of St. Louis have joined 42 other Catholic dioceses and Catholic agencies in filing 12 different regional lawsuits against the the Department of Health and Human Services over the abortion drug mandate.
“Religious liberty is our first, most cherished freedom, and it requires constant vigilance and protection or it will be lost,” said St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson in announcing the lawsuit. “We have pursued every imaginable avenue to correct the mandate to fund medically procedures and prescriptions that we believe are morally wrong without litigation. We cannot remain silent while the right of Catholics to practice our faith is eroded.”
Notre Dame University is one of the plaintiffs. “This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives,” says Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins.
One of the plaintiffs, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, announced last week that it is suspending its student health insurance coverage because of the abortion drug mandate. Yet another university, Ave Maria College, has announced that it is doing the same.
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Here is how state legislators voted on Conference Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 749:
Senators voting for CCS SB 79:
Brown, Callahan, Crowell, Cunningham, Dempsey, Dixon, Engler, Goodman, Green, Kehoe, Kraus, Lager, Lamping, Lembke, Mayer, McKenna, Munzlinger, Nieves, Parson, Pearce, Purgason, Richard, Ridgeway, Rupp, Schaaf, Schmitt, Stouffer, Wasson
Senators voting against CCS SB 79:
Chappelle-Nadal, Curls, Justus, Keaveny, Schaefer, Wright-Jones
State representatives voting for CCS HB 79:
Allen, Asbury, Aull, Bahr, Barnes, Bernskoetter, Berry, Black, Brandom, Brown (Cloria), Brown (Wanda), Burlison, Casey, Cauthorn, Cierpiot, Conway (Pat), Conway (Kathie), Cookson, Cox, Crawford, Cross, Curtman, Davis, Denison, Diehl, Dugger, Elmer, Entlicher, Fallert, Fisher, Fitzwater, Flanigan, Fraker, Franklin, Franz, Fuhr, Gatschenberger, Gosen, Grisamore, Guernsey, Haefner, Hampton, Harris, Higdon, Hinson, Hodges, Hoskins, Hough, Houghton, Johnson, Jones (Tim), Keeney, Kelley (Mike), Klippenstein, Koenig, Korman, Kratky, Lair, Lant, Largent, Lauer, Leach, Leara, Loehner, Marshall, McCaherty, McGeoghegan, McGhee, Meadows, Nance, Neth, Nolte, Parkinson, Phillips, Pollock, Quinn, Reiboldt, Richardson, Riddle, Rowland, Ruzicka, Schad, Scharnhorst, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Schneider, Schoeller, Shively, Shumake, Silvey, Smith (Jason), Solon, Sommer, Stream, Thomson, Torpey, Wallingford, Wells, Weter, White, Wieland, Wyatt, and Zerr
Representatives voting against CCS SB 79:
Anders, Atkins, Carlson, Colona, Ellinger, Ellington, Holsman, Hubbard, Hummel, Jones (Tishaura), Kelly (Chris), Kirkton, Lampe, McCann Beatty, McCreery, McNeil, Molendorp, Montecillo, Morgan, Nasheed, Newman, Nichols, Oxford, Pace, Pierson, Rizzo, Schupp, Sifton, Spreng, Still, Talboy, Taylor, and Walton Gray
Representatives absent with leave:
Brattin, Brown (Michael), Carter, Day, Dieckhaus, Frederick, Funderburk, Hughes, Kander, Lasater, Lichtenegger, Long, May, McDonald, McManus, McNary, Redmon, Sater, Smith (Clem), Swearingen, Swinger, Tilley, Webb, Webber, and Wright
LifeNews.com Note: Joe Ortwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.