By Shauna Segadelli, Law Student
On Wednesday, the Missouri legislature overwhelmingly voted to overrule Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 749, which allows Missouri employers and employees to opt out of coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization based on religious beliefs or moral convictions.
SB 749 is framed to defeat discrimination by governmental entities. Missourians can no longer be forced to pay for coverage that contradicts their moral opposition to surgical or medical abortions, sterilizations, or contraception. Individuals and companies are also excused from participating in or referring for such coverage.
The Missouri bill reflects widespread national discontent concerning the uncompromising violation of religious freedom codified by a provision of Obamacare; the Health and Human Services’ mandate that employers provide abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception to employees. The mandate includes an exemption for religious employers, but the exemption only protects non-profit organizations that primarily employ and serve persons who share their religious tenets. As a result, most life-loving employers are not free to exclude abortion, sterilization, and contraception coverage from their health plans.
The bill’s language demonstrates that resistance to the HHS mandate is a battle for religious liberty rather than merely a battle over birth control. Republican Speaker Tim Jones explained the bill as an effort “to protect the religious freedom, liberties, conscience rights and more importantly, the business decisions of Missouri’s small business owners from this massive federal intrusion.”
Stacey Newman, however, argued against this view in the House: “Senate Bill 749 is actually about birth control. I also want to remind you what birth control is and what it means to women in Missouri. Birth control determines every woman’s social, their economic and their political equality. Every single woman.”
Representative Linda Black, a pro-life Democrat, similarly opposed the bill in fear that it will create more abortions.
To date, at least 28 separate lawsuits have been filed challenging the validity of the conscience-crippling mandate requiring religious employers to choose between their beliefs and Big Brother. Hefty fines accompany a refusal to comply with HHS guidelines.
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the largest for-profit company yet to challenge the HHS mandate, faces fines of $1.3 million per day if it does not comply with the mandate. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, names the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury as defendants, as well as Secretaries Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis, and Timothy Geithner.