May 22, 2012 — The Missouri Legislature on Friday passed a bill (SB 749) that would allow employers to refuse to provide health coverage for services -- including abortion and contraception -- that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has not said whether he will sign it (Crisp, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/18).
Under the bill, the state attorney general could sue government officials or entities if they attempt to require employers or health plans to provide coverage that goes against their beliefs (Lieb, AP/Christian Science Monitor, 5/19).
The final version of the bill does not include a provision approved earlier in the session that would have allowed health care providers to refuse to provide contraception or other services.
Supporters of the bill said it is meant to ensure religious freedom, but critics said it could limit access to birth control. "We're telling (women) that their employer knows better about family planning than they do," Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said, adding that it could be particularly burdensome for low-income women and college students (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/18).