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Mo. House passes medical conscience bill

Mo. Capitol
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Mo. Capitol

The Missouri Househas passed legislationthat would exempt doctors and other health care workers from being forced to perform medical procedures that violate their religious beliefs.

The bill re-ignited intense debate over women’s reproductive rights.  State Rep. Margo McNeil(D, Hazelwood) argued that allowing health professionals to opt out of performing certain procedures could result in a public health threat.

“It could delay people getting the health care they need," McNeil said during floor debate.  "It’s outrageous, and this is really an attack on women and their ability to control their lives.”

McNeil also said that a lot of anger against women is being directed from people outside Missouri, specifically, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"(He) has the audacity to call a 30-year-old college student a "slut" and a "prostitute," and then try to apologize for that," McNeil said.

At that point, McNeil was gaveled down and told to stick to the bill's subject matter.  She dropped that line of argument and went on to say that the bill could totally foul up Missouri's entire health care system.

"I'm just appalled that we would even be discussing this," McNeil said.  "It's not in the people's best interest."

Another female Democratic House Member, Judy Morganof Kansas City, was gaveled down twice for mentioning Limbaugh during floor debate.

The sponsor,Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones(R, Eureka), argued that the bill is about worker’s rights.

“To play partisan political games here, (to) take my words out of context, and make divisive arguments against some members of your own aisle who agree with me on this issue, I think is despicable and disgusting to ladies," Jones said.  "If you want to make political, partisan, divisive, evil, cruel statements on some other bill at another time, well then you should, I guess, feel free to do that, but it did not belong on this bill."

Democrats also argued that the bill is one of several in the General Assembly that seeks to exempt Missouri from President Obama’s health care law and contraception mandate.  Jones disagreed.

“There were two groups of nurses, I believe one was in New Jersey and I don't remember (where) the other one was (from)," Jones told reporters after adjournment.  "These female nurses were required to participate in (an) abortion-related procedure that they felt was against their religious beliefs, and when they made that known and said they did not want to participate, they had an adverse employment action taken against them.”

The bill passed 113-41, with 14 Democrats joining Republicans in voting "yes."  It now goes to theMissouri Senate.

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