Friday, June 8, 2012

Issues of Contraception and Reproductive Procedures at the Forefront in Missouri, Federal Courts

The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation allowing health care workers to refuse to provide contraception or carry out procedures that violate their religious or ethical beliefs. The bill states that "notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary" employers and health plan providers and sponsors cannot be forced to provide coverage for abortion, contraception, or sterilization procedures "if such items or procedures are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such employee or person."

Under the bill, S. 749, doctors, nurses and other medical workers could not be disciplined or discriminated against for their refusal to participate in abortions, embryonic stem-cell research, or other procedures. Following the 117-37 vote in favor of the legislation, it heads back to the senate. The senate must then either accept the house version or request negotiations. 

On a similar vein, a judicial response will likely be forthcoming on the question of a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees.  Last week, 43 Catholic groups, including the archdioceses of Washington, D.C., and New York and prominent Catholic universities, filed 12 lawsuits in U.S. District Courts throughout the country challenging the requirement. The religious groups claim that the requirement to provide such coverage would cause these employers to take actions counter to the teachings of their church. Although under the law, some religious employers are exempt, others like the parties to this suit do not fall within the exemption.  


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