Across the country, people and organizations have been speaking out against the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate. With the approval of Senate Bill 749 Thursday March 29, the Missouri Senate is standing up to protect religious freedom.
Senate Bill 749, sponsored by Sen. John Lamping, states that “No employer, health plan provider, health plan sponsor, health care provider, or any other person or entity shall be compelled to provide coverage for, or be discriminated against or penalized for declining or refusing coverage for, abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employer, health plan provider, health plan sponsor, health care provider, person, or entity.” The bill extends this same protection to employees and self-employed individuals.
This act is grounded in one of the rights on which the United States was founded: religious freedom. If approved, it would allow employers and health care providers to refuse coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion on the basis of religious beliefs or moral obligations, according to the office of Sen. Lamping.
The Missouri Catholic Conference joined Missouri Baptist Convention and Missouri Right to Life in promotion of a rally last month that spoke out against HHS mandate.
“Missouri will not wait for Congress to act,” Mike Hoey, executive director of the MCC, said in a mocatholic.org news release. “Missouri is taking the lead among the states in saying ‘NO’ to the new federal mandate.”
According to the release, Hoey stated, “SB 749 will offer a way to make it known to Congress that Missouri citizens will not tolerate the loss of their religious liberties.”
As of 2001, Missouri law requires health care coverage providers to include coverage for contraceptives with the exception of those that induce abortion. Companies owned and operated by religious-based entities are exempt from this law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. However, companies with a religious affiliation will not be exempt from the law if the medicine is for a diagnosed medical condition. For example, if a sterilization procedure were necessary to keep a genetic disorder from being passed on.
Senate Bill 749 will not change Missouri’s current law. Rather, it would extend the law to include abortion and sterilization and generalize it to employers, according to the office of Sen. Lamping.
Sen. Lamping’s office explained that the proposed bill is not attacking women’s rights by stating that women will still be able to obtain contraceptives and medical procedures, including sterilizations and abortions, if the act is approved. What could change is who will pay for it.
The Missouri House approved a separate bill that would permit health care workers to refuse to participate in medical procedures that violate their religious beliefs such as abortions, sterilizations and embryonic stem cell research, according to 971knim.com.
Missouri is one of 21 states that allows employers and insurance companies exemption from offering health care coverage for contraceptives on the basis of religious beliefs, according to NCSL.