Bishop John Gaydos of the Diocese of Jefferson City asked members of the Missouri House Health Insurance Committee to support a bill that would defend conscience rights in health plans by ensuring that insurance companies will, upon request, write policies that exclude abortion drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures.
“To put it simply, no person should be forced to pay for abortion drugs or other items that violate their moral and religious convictions. This is exactly the conscience coercion imposed by the new HHS mandate,” Bishop Gaydos said in Tuesday’s hearing.
Bishop Gaydos said the Missouri law is needed even if the HHS mandate is withdrawn because even then insurers might not write policies excluding items that violate a person’s religious beliefs.
“Yet even if the HHS mandate were to be withdrawn, a person may find that no insurance carrier will write him a policy that excludes abortion drugs, contraceptives or sterilization procedures. In this instance, rights of conscience are just as surely violated as with the HHS mandate,” he said.
Peggy Forrest, executive director of Our Lady’s Inn, also spoke in favor of the bill because she knows firsthand the difficulties of trying to get health coverage without including contraceptives, abortion drugs or sterilization procedures. When she talked to insurers about Our Lady’s Inn’s health coverage, she was told they would have to discontinue the entire policy if they wanted to exclude contraceptives.
Despite testimony showing the necessity of the bill, it was met with resistance from some representatives on the health insurance committee who voiced concern about how the bill would impact women’s access to contraceptives.
Sen. John Lamping (R-Ladue), the sponsor of SB 749, emphasized repeatedly that the bill does not limit access to contraceptives, and he also noted that it is currently the right of an employer to offer or not offer a benefit.
“This bill does not change the access landscape in any way, shape or form,” he said.
The health insurance committee did not finish hearing testimony on the bill, and thus it took no action on the bill. Another hearing will be scheduled to finish testimony on the bill, and further action is expected after that hearing.