Most people learned in high school civics that federal law is supreme over a state law. So what good is it to pass SB 749? SB 749 authorizes the state attorney general to bring suit in state or federal court to contest the constitutionality of the so-called “contraceptive mandate” issued in January by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Many legal observers think the HHS mandate runs afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom. SB 749 then offers a tool to obtain a court decision striking down the HHS mandate.
But there is more to SB 749 than simply offering a way to protest and potentially overturn the HHS mandate. The legislation proposes new rights for insurance consumers. When applying for an insurance plan, consumers will be informed whether it covers contraceptives or abortions. If the consumer objects on moral or religious grounds, the insurers must write a new policy that excludes these items. By exercising their rights under SB 749, people of faith can refuse to pay for abortions and contraceptives in their health plans.
SB 749 therefore addresses not only government policies that coerce people to act against their religious and moral convictions, but instances where private insurance companies might be tempted to ignore a consumer’s request for a health plan that does not pay for abortion, abortion drugs, etc. If SB 749 is signed by Gov. Nixon, insurance companies will not be able to ignore the rights of conscience of their customers.