Missouri lawmakers have set the stage for a federal court battle by protecting a new law that would exempt employers with religious objections from the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) birth control coverage requirements.
Members of both the state House and the state Senate agreed Wednesday to override a move by Gov. Jay Nixon, D, to veto the religious exemption bill, Senate Bill 749.
The new law created by S.B. 749 will free any employee, self-employed person or other person from the need to obtain coverage for, or to be penalized for declining coverage for, abortion, contraception or sterilization in a health plan if those items are procedures conflict with the person’s religious beliefs or moral convictions, according to a bill summary.
The new law also exempts any employer, health plan provider, plan sponsor, or health care provider from having to provide coverage for, or from being punished for declining to provide coverage for, abortion, contraceptiion or sterilization health plan benefits if those benefits would conflict with that entity’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The law lets the state attorney general protect individuals, employers and other parties that use the law by filing a civil suit in any appropriate state or federal court.
Nixon vetoed S.B. 749, which was sponsored by state Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, Mo., in July.
Nixon said at the time that the state’s existing law already lets employers opt out of providing contraceptive coverage if doing so conflicts with their religious or moral convictions.
Nixon said he objected to S.B. 749 because it would let insurers opt out of providing contraceptive coverage even if women or their employers wanted contraceptives covered.