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Missouri House and Senate vote to override governor's veto on contraception health coverage

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | 7:43 p.m. CDT; updated 11:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 13, 2012

*This story has been changed to reflect that Senate Bill 749 took effect immediately after the legislature voted to override the governor's veto.

COLUMBIA — Despite opposition from every Columbia legislator in the Missouri General Assembly, Missouri House of Representatives and Senate members voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that allows employers to deny health insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. John Lamping, R-St. Louis, came in response to an order by President Barack Obama that all insurers provide coverage for contraception to women, including those insured by religious institutions.

The vote in the House to override the veto was 109 to 45; 102 Republicans and seven Democrats voted in favor of the override.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, voted against it along with Reps. Stephen Webber and Chris Kelly, also Columbia Democrats, and state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. 

Still said that she was disappointed with the outcome and that it represented an anti-woman vote.

"Because the ability to plan for a family is important to a woman's health, her career and the economic well being of her family, the bill is unfair," Still said in a statement. 

Still was unable to speak on the House floor before a motion was passed to cut off debate.

"(The bill) discriminates against women employees by eliminating a benefit that is important to the health and well being of a woman," she said. 

Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, moved to pass the contraception bill. She said it protects religious liberties and does not prohibit the sale of birth control. 

"No employer should be forced to provide coverage for abortion, sterilization or contraception," Crawford said. 

Still said women don't need insurance companies or the men in the House chamber to make their health care decisions.

"This bill is anti-woman," she said. "I am pro-women and pro-family planning."

In the Senate, the veto override passed 26-6; 24 Republicans and two Democrats favored the override.

Schaefer, however, said he believes the bill is unnecessary. He said that the state should focus more attention on funding public education and creating jobs and that Missouri law already recognizes religious consciences when it comes to health insurance.

Nixon vetoed the legislation in July, saying he supports religious and ethical exemptions from contraception coverage that already exist in Missouri law. He said the new bill could have extended those exemptions to insurance companies, allowing them to deny birth control coverage to women who want it, according to The Associated Press.

Lamping said Nixon's rationale for the veto had no merit.

Lamping said the bill doesn't restrict access and doesn't change current access. He said that without the legislation, employers would have to choose between religiously held beliefs and the federal mandate. He said he believes some employers would be inclined not to offer health care because of religious beliefs.

"Employers will be forced to pay for things they don't want to pay for," Lamping said. "The need for it has gotten greater and greater."

Lamping said only portions of the bill contain provisions already in existing laws.

Still, who is running against Schaefer in the upcoming Senate election, said she asked that he speak out against the bill in the Senate.

"The citizens of Boone County need a senator that will stand up for women every time, not when it is politically convenient or the votes have already been counted," she said.

Nixon spoke on the veto session after adjournment and said he respectfully disagrees with those who voted to override him.

"It's a shame we are still debating access to birth control in 2012," Nixon said.

Because the veto was overridden in both the House and the Senate, the law took effect immediately.*

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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