As the U.S. Supreme Court debates health care laws, Missouri legislators are responding to President Barack Obama's mandate on birth control.
Wrap: A bill that would attempt to remove the requirement of employers to provide medical coverage for birth control has been heavily debated by the Missouri legislature this session.
Under the bill, employers would only need to provide birth control if an employee has a medical need for it.
Democratic Senators delayed a vote on the bill in February, but yielded at the end of March. They say the bill is a "do-nothing bill" because Missouri law already allows employers to opt out of birth control coverage.
This bill, however, goes against the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on in June.
Under the Obama's administration contraception mandate, women would have access to birth control free of charge from their employer or insurance companies.
Republicans seek to block this mandate, but Democratic St. Louis Senator Robin Wright-Jones says this bill is just part of the resistance to health care laws.
|Description: "It's just going to put a lot of, I think, unneccessary discussion in the marketplace and make it difficult for women to get what they need."|
Current Missouri law allows employers to opt out of coverage for abortion and contraceptives.
Republican St. Louis County Senator John Lamping is the sponsor of the bill. He says he intends for the bill to give more religious freedom to employers so they don't drop health care coverage all together.
Republican Napton Senator Bill Stouffer says this bill would protect an employer's freedom of religion.
|Description: "It just seems wrong, as an employer, that I give up my first amendment rights to decide what I pay for and what I don't pay for."|
Wright-Jones says if Obama's mandate was to pass, it would not be received well by Missouri.
|Description: Well Missouri has not embraced the president's health care package...I think if it should pass here in Missouri and the president's mandate should pass, I suspect we would have lawsuits to stop it."|
M-U Law Professor Greg Casey says the bill would not have any standing if the Affordable Care Act Passes, because federal law has supremacy over state law.
|Description: "It's all a kind of a gamble, in a way, will the Affordable Care Act be found constitutional? If it is constitutional...this particular law is just a waste of time."|
If the Affordable Care Act is found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Missouri law would be in effect.
Planned Parenthood is in support of Obama's mandate. Planned Parenthood Spokesperson Michelle Crupano says 98 percent of women use some form of contraception during their life.
|Description: "The recommendation for birth control to be covered by health insurance companies without co-pay was done through research through the institute of medicine and it was scientifically evidence based that birth control is good preventative health care."|
The bill would declare the state exempt from the federal mandate and would give employers the right to file civil lawsuits through the Attorney General if they are forced to provide coverage.
Missouri Right To Life State President Pam Fichter agrees. She says the bill is focused on religious liberty.
|Description: "An employer as a citizen of the United States should have the same rights that other citizens have. It's certainly among our most fundamental rights - the right to practice a religion and to exercise their religious freedom and that's what this is about."|
But Democrats say this bill would make it harder for women to get birth control. Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan says the bill gives responsibilities of insurance companies to employers.
|Description: "This isn't a very good bill because you're extending this authority to employees that can have any basic objections to a plan and now they have civil claims paid for by the AG."|
Callahan also argues that the bill's wording is too broad to understand who it would affect.
|Description: "Your language right now is no governmental entity, that includes the state, it could be Medicaid, it could be your local government."|
The bill still needs to be approved by the House.
The House passed a similar bill sponsored by Republican Majority Leader Tim Jones.
If the bill passes, it would be in conflict with the Affordable Care Act, which awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Paige Hornor.
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