Pro-life leaders in the Missouri Legislature are working to secure the votes to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a religious freedom health care bill. Members of the General Assembly will be convening for their annual veto session this Wednesday in the State Capitol.
House and Senate members will be considering the override of Governor Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 749, sponsored by Senator John Lamping of Clayton. The bill constitutes a state-level challenge to the Obama Administration’s contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.
Lamping’s legislation provides that no person can be forced to purchase coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health insurance plan if such items or procedures violate their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The bill also stipulates that no employer or health insurance provider can be compelled to provide coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization, if those items and procedures are contrary to their religious convictions.
Senate Bill 749 is a response to the contraceptive edict issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The contraceptive mandate requires that every health insurance policy offered in the United States must include coverage of all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, without co-pays or co-insurance. FDA-approved “contraceptives” include the abortifacient drugs Ella and Plan B, as well as intrauterine devices that function as abortifacients.
The Sebelius edict went into effect on August 1st for most employers and health insurance plans. Organized churches are exempted from the edict, and other religious institutions such as hospitals, colleges, and religious ministries have been given until August 1st, 2013, to comply. This means that Catholic entities will be required to provide coverage for drugs, devices, and procedures that violate their longstanding religious doctrines.
Some advocates for Senate Bill 749 have falsely claimed that the measure will repeal or reverse the federal contraceptive mandate. This is simply not true. No state action can supersede a federal regulation that has been authorized by federal law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) delegated authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to define what “preventative services” must be included in the basic benefits package of every health insurance policy.
However, there is still a valid purpose for enacting Senate Bill 749 into law, the Governor’s objections notwithstanding. The provisions of Senator Lamping’s bill would take full force and effect under three scenarios: 1) a new Congress with conservative majorities in both chambers voted to repeal the mandate; 2) a President Romney ordered a new Secretary of Health and Human Services to revoke the mandate; 3) a federal court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional.
While the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Act that every American must obtain health insurance, legal challenges to the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate have only begun to make their way through the federal courts. One legal victory has already occurred in a case out of Colorado.
U.S. District Judge John Kane issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against Hercules Industries, a Denver business operated by a staunchly Catholic family. Judge Kane stated that the Obama Administration’s arguments “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.” President Obama’s Justice Department had argued that for-profit secular businesses do not have a First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion in how they conduct their businesses.
Lawyers for CEO Bill Newland and the Newland Family (the owners of Hercules Industries) stated in their court filing that their Catholic faith required that they not violate core moral doctrines of their church. “The Newlands believe that their operation of Hercules must be guided by Catholic moral and religious teachings, that the adherence of their business practices to Catholic ethics is a genuine calling from God, and that their Catholic faith prohibits them from severing their religious beliefs from their daily business practice.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Hercules Industries in the case, and ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman cheered the judge’s action. “Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. The cost of freedom for this family could be millions of dollars in fines per year that will cripple their business. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith to earn a living.”
Should Hercules Industries lose this lawsuit and still stand by its religious beliefs, the company would face fines of $100 per employee per day. Since Hercules currently employs 265 people, the total cost of the fines would be $10 million per year.
Governor Nixon stated in his veto message that Senate Bill 749 was unnecessary, because health insurance conscience protections are already included in Missouri law. However, those protections have now been invalidated by the provisions of “Obamacare”, and the regulations that have followed.
Pro-life leaders are hopeful that the override of the Governor’s veto will be successful, which requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber. A successful override in the Senate is likely, where 23 votes are required. Senate Bill 749 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 28-6.
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The suspense on this issue will occur in the House, where 109 votes are necessary to override the Governor’s veto. Senate Bill 749 was approved by the House by a vote of 105-33. However, a total of 25 legislators were absent for the vote, including several pro-life legislators. The question will be whether pro-life Democrats in the House are willing to disregard the veto of a Governor from their own party, and whether legislators who are retiring or were defeated in re-election attempts will even show up for the veto session.
We urge you to contact your state representative and state senator by phone or e-mail, and urge them to vote to override Governor Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 749.
LifeNews.com Note: Joe Ortwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.