On Thursday, July 12, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation that seeks to protect the religious liberties of all Missouri citizens. SB 749 asserts a basic principle – the right of people to follow their conscience as informed by their moral and religious beliefs.
SB 749 upholds religious liberty in a very practical way. Under this bill, no one can be forced to pay for surgical abortions, abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives or sterilizations when this violates their moral or religious beliefs. The governor’s contention that SB 749 adds nothing new to state law to protect religious liberty is simply false.
• SB 749 allows workers to exclude and not pay for elective (surgical) abortions when the company plan includes this coverage. (Section 376.1199.6(5));
• SB 749 requires health insurance carriers to write policies that exclude contraceptives when the employer has moral or religious objections. (Section 376.1199.4(1));
• SB 749 ensures that consumers know in advance whether or not a proposed health plan will cover abortion or contraceptives. (Section 376.1199.6).
Current Missouri law does none of these things. In fact, during committee hearings on SB 749, citizens testified that they were not aware (but found out later) that their health plan covered items such as contraceptives and abortions. SB 749 will put an end to this practice so people can ensure that their health plans correspond to their most deeply held religious and moral beliefs.
In his message, the governor suggests that SB 749 will allow insurance companies to deny workers coverage for contraceptives. This is simply not true. Only insurance carriers in Missouri that operate according to an established set of religious beliefs or moral convictions (in reality, very few) have a right under SB 749 and current law to opt out of providing such coverage. All other carriers must offer contraceptive coverage pursuant to existing Missouri law.
SB 749 upholds the conscience rights and religious liberties of all Missouri citizens. Our state laws should not force anyone to pay for surgical abortions or other morally objectionable items. The MCC urges all people of faith and conscience to contact their state legislators and urge enactment of SB 749, the governor’s veto notwithstanding.
Download this statement as a PDF here.