May 18, 2012 — The Missouri House on Wednesday voted 117-37 to approve legislation (SB 749) that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide contraception or other services for moral or religious reasons, the AP/Waynesville Daily Guide reports.
The bill would ban discrimination or punishment against providers who refuse to participate in procedures or medical research, including abortion care and embryonic stem cell research. In addition, the bill states that pharmacies could not be required to stock particular drugs or devices, and employers and health plans could not be forced to provide coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization procedures. The House added an amendment that would allow people enrolled in group health plans to decline paying for coverage of elective abortions.
House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R) called the legislation a "comprehensive bill that goes far to protect religious freedoms and liberties and conscience rights of workers" (Blank, AP/Waynesville Daily Guide, 5/17).
Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the bill could have unintended consequences. For instance, "any kind of medical treatment leading to sterility could be denied" and health care providers could refuse to process bills, handle records or prepare exam rooms, she said (Lear, Missourinet, 5/17). Opponents also noted that the bill targets contraception.
The bill will be sent back to the Senate, where lawmakers could accept it as written or request negotiations. To send the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon (D), both chambers must agree on the same version before the Legislature adjourns on Friday evening (AP/Waynesville Daily Guide, 5/17).