July 13, 2012 — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Thursday vetoed a bill (SB 749) that would have allowed employers and health plans to refuse to provide insurance coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if the services conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, the AP/Washington Times reports (Lieb, AP/Washington Times, 7/12).
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. The final version of the bill did not include a provision approved earlier in the session that would have allowed health care providers to refuse to dispense contraception or provide other services (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/19).
In vetoing the bill, Nixon said that Missouri law already allows employers or workers to refuse contraceptive coverage for moral or religious reasons.
The bill "would shift authority to make decisions about access to contraceptive coverage away from Missouri women, families and employers -- and put that power in the hands of insurance companies," Nixon said, adding that this could set a dangerous precedent (Murphy, Reuters, 7/12). A 2001 law requires health insurance policies that include pharmaceutical benefits to cover birth control prescriptions at the same copayment or deductible level as other medications.
Nixon's decision came after two months of intense public lobbying that flooded his office with more than 10,000 messages urging him to either sign or veto the bill (AP/Washington Times, 7/12). He had until July 14 to sign or veto the bill; otherwise it would have automatically become law (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/19).
Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in a statement, "Governor Nixon recognizes that birth control is a pocketbook issue for Missouri women and should be fully covered by insurance no matter where they work."
The Archdiocese of St. Louis, which supported the measure, called the veto "a profound missed opportunity to assert conscience rights for Missouri citizens when those rights are in jeopardy from the federal HHS mandate" (Weiderman, St. Louis Business Journal, 7/12).