The Archdiocese of St. Louis voiced “deep sadness” that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill to require insurance companies to provide information and several accommodations for employers and employees who have religious objections to abortion, contraceptives and sterilizations.
“This is a profound missed opportunity to assert conscience rights for Missouri citizens when those rights are in jeopardy from the federal HHS mandate,” the archdiocese said July 12.
The legislation, S.B. 749, strengthened conscience protections against the compulsory purchase or provision of health care plans that include coverage for abortion-causing drugs, contraceptives or sterilizations.
The archdiocese said that the legislation would allow employees to exclude abortion coverage from the health care plans provided through their employer.
“Right now a company can purchase abortion coverage and have all its employees pay for it in their health insurance,” the archdiocese said in a statement before the veto. “The employee might not even be aware that they are subsidizing other people's abortions.”
The legislation would require insurance companies to write policies that exclude coverage for abortion and contraceptives when requested by consumers with moral and religious objections. The proposal would also require the companies to provide conspicuous notifications about whether a proposed plan includes coverage for abortion and contraceptives.
Gov. Nixon, a Democrat, said that state law already allows employers to refuse insurance coverage of contraceptives. He said the bill would not enhance the “substantive religious protections that have been in place.”
Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, told the Springfield News-Leader that current state law allows requests to exclude certain types of objectionable coverage, but it does not require them to comply with those requests.
In a July 12 reaction to the veto, the conference said it is “not true” for the governor to suggest that the legislation would allow insurance companies to deny contraceptive coverage. The proposed law applied only to insurance carriers with established religious beliefs or moral convictions.
“Our state laws should not force anyone to pay for surgical abortions or other morally objectionable items,” the conference said.
Sen. John Lamping, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the bill was not signed into law.
He said the governor’s office had indicated that Gov. Nixon agrees “philosophically” with the bill but vetoed it because of “an alleged minor technicality.”
“We cannot wait until January to fix this legislation as the federal mandate becomes effective in August,” Sen. Lamping said.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis encouraged Missouri legislators to override the veto during the state’s September veto session. It also encouraged Catholics and all people of faith to pray for religious liberty.