Missouri legislature hailed for upholding religious liberty

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The Archdiocese of St. Louis praised the Missouri legislature for overturning the governor's veto of a bill that allows employers to not cover contraception and abortion if it violates their conscience.

“This is a victory for Catholics, people of all faiths, and more specifically, Missouri citizens who value religious liberty,” the Archdiocese wrote in a press release.

Senate Bill 749 requires insurance companies to inform health care consumers whether or not a policy includes coverage for abortions or contraceptives and it allows those with an objection on moral grounds to have insurers exclude these items from employees' health plans.

The veto override, which took place on Sept. 12, means the legislation is now state law in Missouri.

Originally passed in May, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, on July 12.
Both chambers of the legislature had to have a two-thirds majority to overturn the veto. The Senate voted 26-6, and the House voted 109-45, the exact minimum needed to overturn.

Seven Democrats in the House joined Republicans in voting to overturn, and three Republicans were absent from the floor vote. This is the second time the legislature has overturned a veto by Governor Nixon.

The law is the subject of a suit seeking to block the measure filed by the Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women. A lawyer for the union, Edward Keenan, claimed that the law denies workers' right to health care. The suit argues that the state law conflicts with the federal Affordable Health Care Act and the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Its supporters hail the law for protecting religious liberty and protecting moral conviction, and say the override is a “powerful pro-life statement.”

Opponents of the law, however, argue it will limit access to affordable contraception for Missouri women.

Jill Schupp, Democratic representative for Creve Couer, a St. Louis suburb, said she considers birth control “basic health care,” adding that to “make a woman pay for birth control on top of premium payments has real economic consequences.”

She spoke at a Democratic news conference ahead of the vote, claiming the law will force Missourians to choose between purchasing birth control and basic necessities such as food. 

Schupp claimed the annual cost of birth control is “the equivalent of five weeks of basic groceries for a family of four, or 14 tanks of gas in the minivan or four hours of tuition at a community college.”

“For a family living paycheck-to-paycheck, imagine the impact as they might have to make a choice between birth control and groceries.”

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