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Bill to block birth control coverage on religious grounds moves forward

The Mo. Senate's Committee on Small Business, Insurance and Industry meets at the Mo. Capitol.
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
The Mo. Senate's Committee on Small Business, Insurance and Industry meets at the Mo. Capitol.

Legislation that would allow employers to block insurance coverage for birth control, abortions and sterilizations, all for religious reasons, has passed a Missouri Senatecommittee.

The bill was filed in response to President Obama’s recent mandate that church-run institutions provide coverage for birth control – that mandate has since been amended to require insurers to provide coverage if a religious employer refuses to do so.  Bishop John Gaydos, representing Missouri’s Catholic bishops, spoke in favor of the bill.

“This legislation will place in state law a strong and clear prohibition on government infringement on religious liberty and send a strong message to Congress that Missouri opposes the federal government trampling on our religious freedom," Gaydos told the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee.

The bill’s sponsor,State Senator John Lamping(R, St. Louis County), says employers should have the right to decide which benefits to offer to their workers.  Planned Parenthood lobbyist Michelle Trupiano spoke against the bill before the committee vote.

“Increased access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other health benefits…it’s not always used just to prevent pregnancy," Trupiano said.  "Women should not be denied access to this benefit just because they work for a religious employer.”

The bill passed 5 to 2 along party lines.  State SenatorsVictor Callahan(D, Independence) and Timothy Green(D, Spanish Lake) both objected to the committee chairman's decision to vote the bill out today, instead of waiting a week.  It now goes to the full Senate for debate. 

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.