Knights of Columbus Join MCC in Override Campaign

The MCC is calling on the Missouri Knights of Columbus for help in the SB 749 veto override campaign. Local councils are being asked to conduct virtual override events by bringing laptop computers to council meetings and asking Knights to send the MCC’s precomposed message. Click here for the MCC alert.

Planned Parenthood Ramping Up Efforts Against SB 749 Again

After a slight pause, Planned Parenthood is at it again, calling on its members to contact legislators to urge them to uphold Gov. Nixon’s veto of SB 749, the religious liberty bill. In the mythological story developed by Planned Parenthood, the boss is the bad guy who won’t give workers their contraceptives. As usual Planned Parenthood is not reading the bill. SB 749 gives workers the legal right to obtain contraceptives if their boss doesn’t want to pay for them. And SB 749 also protects the rights of workers who don’t want to pay for abortions or contraceptives when their employer wants to bundle these items into the company’s health plan. SB 749 respects the rights of conscience of all insurance consumers. To send a message to your legislators urging them to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of SB 749, click here.

What Now? MCC Plans for Override of Gov. Nixon’s Veto of SB 749

The Missouri Catholic Conference is fully committed to supporting legislators in their effort to override the veto and enact SB 749 into state law. The veto session begins Sept. 12. Between now and then our challenge will be to secure a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers – 109 in the Missouri House and 23 in the Missouri Senate. SB 749 passed in the Senate with 28 votes, while the bill passed with 105 votes in the House.

An override is therefore doable, but it will not be easy. There were some supporters of SB 749 absent in the House who could make up the difference and gain us the 109 votes. Hopefully, there will be no slippage of the votes in the Senate. However, veto sessions are not always well attended, especially by legislators who will not be back in January because of term limits or being defeated in the August primary.

Media, Political Reactions to Gov. Nixon’s Veto of SB 749

The governor’s veto of SB 749 captured front-page news in papers around the state. The Jefferson City News Tribune headlined the bill as the “religious freedom” bill (the full article is available online to subscribers only), while the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called it the “birth control” measure. A Kansas City Star article led with vows by legislators to override the veto. An article by KOMU 8  shared reactions from local pastors and the MCC.

Reaction from legislators was swift and emphatic. House Speaker-Elect Tim Jones declared: “It is outrageous that Governor Nixon chose to side with pro-abortion interest groups and President Obama against a measure protecting the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty for Missourians against Obama’s HHS mandate. Just as I led the effort to pass this bill in the Missouri House of Representatives, I will lead the effort to override Governor Nixon’s veto.” For Jones’ entire response, click here.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Lamping (R-Clayton), characterized the reason for the governor’s veto as “a made-up argument,” according to the Post-Dispatch. Click here for Senator Lamping’s full response.

MCC Responds to Gov. Nixon’s Veto of SB 749

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.

Gov. Nixon Vetoes SB 749

With two days left before his deadline, Gov. Nixon vetoed SB 749.

The MCC is disappointed and will work toward an override of the bill. Check back for more updates from the MCC.

The governor’s office announced that he’d received 10,000 messages from constituents asking him to sign or veto the bill.

Click here to download a PDF of Gov. Nixon’s veto message.

The ACA Supreme Court Ruling and SB 749

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) it is urgent that Gov. Nixon protect the religious liberties of Missouri citizens by signing into law SB 749. The Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius did not consider the constitutionality of the HHS mandate, which requires health plans to cover abortion drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. For now that mandate remains law even though it likely runs afoul of the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In response to the HHS mandate, the Missouri General Assembly this year overwhelmingly passed SB 749. This bill declares that people cannot be compelled to buy insurance policies that include coverage for abortion, contraceptives or sterilizations when this violates their moral or religious beliefs. SB 749 will allow the state of Missouri to defend its citizens in federal court from government infringements on religious liberty. As Gov. Nixon ponders the ACA ruling and whether to sign SB 749, the Missouri Catholic Conference offers the following for prayerful consideration:

Reasons Why Governor Nixon Should Sign SB 749:

• The HHS mandate is still in place after the Supreme Court decision.

• Now more than ever religious liberty is in jeopardy. Citizens have a First Amendment right to religious liberty. SB 749 helps Missourians exercise that right.

• The HHS mandate goes into effect on August 1, 2012. SB 749 goes into effect immediately once Gov. Nixon signs it. He must sign the bill now!

• People of faith and all taxpayers can have their day in court and be represented by the Missouri attorney general, once SB 749 becomes the law.

• The federal government has just gone too far. SB 749 will help citizens be protected from future government overreach.

• SB 749 makes sure insurance companies can no longer discriminate against churches and families who want to buy insurance policies that are consistent with their religious beliefs.

• Under SB 749, Missouri workers covered under group health plans can remove abortion from their insurance – even if their bosses purchased such coverage without their knowledge, forcing them to pay for it.

• By signing SB 749, Gov. Nixon can be consistent with his declared position opposing the individual mandate, which forces people to buy health insurance against their will; in this case the governor can ensure that people are not forced to pay for abortion drugs in their health plans when this violates their religious beliefs.

• Other states will look to Missouri and SB 749 as a model of how to protect religious liberty.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Gov. Nixon on SB 749 Now

Gov. Nixon has until July 14 to sign the religious liberty bill, SB 749. Please join us in asking him to sign this bill so that employers and employees are not forced to pay for abortions or contraceptives in their health insurance plans.

Please call, write or email the governor immediately. To help with this process, the MCC has written a message that can you can email to Gov. Nixon. Click here to see this message and edit it as you see fit. Once you click send, the email will go to Gov. Nixon.

To learn more about SB 749, read the articles below.

Why SB 749 is important regardless of HHS Mandate

The Case for the Church: Why the Contraceptive Mandate Violates Religious Liberty

What’s in SB 749?

Missouri Moves to Protect Religious Liberty

The Accommodation That Isn’t

Why Missouri Must Not Wait on Congress to Protect Religious Liberty

 

Why SB 749 is Important Regardless of HHS Mandate

People ask the Missouri Catholic Conference if SB 749 will be necessary if the infamous HHS contraceptive mandate is rescinded or held invalid by the courts. The answer is “YES.” True, the government could no longer force people to pay for abortion drugs or contraceptives in their health plans. There would, however, still be a very big problem.

An insurance company could still refuse to write a policy that excludes contraceptives or abortion drugs. After all, writing such “kosher” policies is a bit of an administrative hassle. The insurance company could tell you – the consumer – “we don’t offer such a policy, but check with company B.”

SB 749, however, requires insurance companies to put consumers on notice as to whether a proposed plan covers items such as abortions and contraceptives. And if the consumer has moral or religious objections to abortions or contraceptives, the insurance company must write a policy that excludes these items.

SB 749 therefore recognizes that religious liberty can be jeopardized not only by government but also by a supposed “free market” that refuses to honor the moral and religious convictions of consumers. If Gov. Nixon signs SB 749, Missouri will have one of the nation’s strongest laws protecting conscience rights in the insurance market.

AFL-CIO Urges Veto of SB 749

The AFL-CIO is mobilizing its members to contact Gov. Nixon and ask for a veto of SB 749, according to an article by the Kansas City Star. The group claims SB 749 will deny female workers access to health care services. They have dubbed SB 749 the “Birth Control Refusal Bill.” Click here to view the AFL-CIO alert message.

The AFL-CIO is misreading SB 749, or maybe not reading the bill at all. The legislation retains provisions of current law that ensure that women who want to obtain contraceptives can do so, even when their employer opts not to pay for the contraceptives. Section 376.1199, subsection 6, subdivision (3) states the following:

That an enrollee who is a member of a group health benefit plan without coverage for contraceptives has the right to purchase coverage for contraceptives.

SB 749 therefore does not deny access to health care services for women nor does it deny access to contraceptives. These are the facts that the AFL-CIO is either unaware of or is ignoring.

It is true that SB 749, while ensuring access to health care for workers, also protects the conscience rights of workers. For example, section 376.1199, subsection 6, subdivision (5) states the following:

That an enrollee who is a member of a group health plan with coverage for elective abortions has the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions if such coverage is contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

Apparently, the AFL-CIO believes that workers should be forced to pay for elective abortions even if this violates their most cherished moral and religious convictions. This is essentially an attack on workers by an organization that claims to protect workers.

The Catholic Church has long supported the right of labor to bargain collectively and has backed laws, such as the minimum wage, that uphold the dignity of work and workers. By defending the conscience rights of workers, SB 749 builds on this tradition. SB 749 is about religious liberty and rights of conscience; it upholds these liberties and rights not just for employers but also for workers.