The Republican-led Missouri legislature wasn’t going to let the legislative session close without one final push to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care and passed a bill that allows employers to refuse to provide health insurance for birth control.
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.”
Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has declined to say whether or not he supports the measure, noting he is in favor of both a woman’s right to access contraception and the right of people to practice their religious beliefs.
This measure is a companion to another bill asking Missouri voters to decide whether the state should restrict the creation of a health insurance exchange as part of the federal overhaul of the insurance market. Under that bill, voters would get the final say on whether to enact a state law prohibiting the governor from establishing a state health insurance exchange. The federal health care law signed by Obama requires states to create such online markets by 2014 or have the federal government run one for them. The Missouri measure would allow a state-created insurance exchange only if specifically authorized by a state law or a subsequent vote of the people.
What didn’t was were several education and job-growth initiatives Republicans promised work on when the session started in January. Nonetheless, Republicans declared the legislative session a success, which should make clear what their priorities were all along.
Photo from mmarkus via flickr.