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Missouri Right to Life withdraws two endorsements after votes on insurance

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 20, 2012 - Missouri Right to Life has made good on its warning, by withdrawing its support from two state House members – Democrats Linda Black of Bonne Terre and Steve Hodges of East Prairie – who had opted to stick with Gov. Jay Nixon and not support the General Assembly’s override of his veto of SB 749.

The bill in question, which now becomes law, allows employers to decline to provide insurance coverage for abortions, contraception or sterilization. Nixon opposed the measure, in part, because of existing state provisions that allow employers to decline coverage for abortions.

Black and Hodges both oppose abortion, but told the Beacon in interviews that they objected to the provisions dealing with contraceptive coverage. That’s why both opted to side with Nixon when it came to the override vote.

The House produced the minimum 109 votes needed for the override. In the Senate, the bill’s backers collected 26 votes, three more than necessary.

Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, had told legislators before the vote that failure to support the override would be a deal-breaker, when it comes to an endorsement.

The group said in a statement that Black and Hodges were among those who “gave a verbal commitment to vote to protect the religious liberties of people of faith not to have to pay for or participate in the taking of innocent human lives by being forced to provide abortion services, drugs or devices.”

“Since MRL PAC endorsements are made on the basis of a candidate's commitment to protect innocent human lives on all life issues, these votes against an override were considered anti-life,” the group said in a statement. “MRL PAC judges this anti-life vote to be a disqualifier for an endorsement.”

Right to Life said it now is endorsing Hodges’ Republican opponent, Neal Boyd, who “is committed to a pro-life position on all life issues…”

Black does not have a Republican opponent.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.