The Missouri Senate has passed legislation that would ensure that pharmacies could refuse to stock certain prescription drugs, such as emergency contraception.
The legislation passed the Senate by a 24-9 vote Thursday and now heads to the House.
Sponsoring Sen. David Sater is a Republican pharmacist from southwest Missouri who describes the legislation a business freedom issue. Sater says some states have mandated that birth control or emergency contraception be stocked by pharmacies. But he says a pharmacy — like a clothing store — should be free to sell what it chooses.
Missouri's Catholic bishops have joined the chorus urging the appeal of a federal court ruling striking down the state's contraception insurance exemption for people with religious or moral objections.
The Legislature's veto override of a bill expanding religious exemptions from insurance coverage for birth control is the latest example of how Missouri has become a center point in a national debate about pregnancy.
Missouri's law is apparently the first to intentionally contradict an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover birth control for women at no additional cost. But the override was closer than expected in the House. One lawmaker acknowledged skipping the vote because he was disgruntled with Missouri Right to Life.
Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that would have exempted religious organizations from covering contraception under their health insurance plans, if that coverage would go against the organizations' beliefs. Nixon said in his remarks that existing law adequately protects religious liberties.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon now has received more than 10,000 messages urging him to sign or veto legislation related to health insurance coverage for contraception.
Nixon has scheduled a Thursday news conference to announce his action on legislation. That comes a couple days ahead of a Saturday deadline for him to sign, veto or allow bills to become law without his signature.
Around 200 people rallied at the Missouri Capitol today against President Obama’s mandate that employers provide coverage for contraceptive services.
Churches are exempt from the mandate, but religious non-profit organizations, such as schools and hospitals, are not. John Gaydos is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.
“Religious freedom is not merely about our ability to attend church on Sunday," Gaydos said. "It is impossible to exercise that religious freedom and at the same time compromise the faith that inspires us to action.”
Debate continues in the Missouri legislature over the Obama administration's "contraception mandate," which will require health insurance to include coverage for birth control. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a House committee hears testimony on a largely symbolic bill, opposing the mandate.
The Missouri House has reignited intense debate over women’s reproductive rights, passing legislation that would exempt doctors and other health care workers from performing medical procedures that violate their religious beliefs.