Women in the state senate are on both sides of the so-called “conscience” bill as it clears the senate and heads to the House.
This is the bill that says Missouri employers can ignore any federal mandate that they provide employees with healthcare coverage that violates their religious or moral positions on abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
The sponsor says the bill is a restatement of Missouri’s freedom of religion law. Some of the women senators say it’s an anti-woman bill. Chesterfield Senator Jane Cunningham strongly disagrees. “I as a woman stand here…and say…this is a First Amendment religious liberty issue,” she tells the senate.
But Kansas City Senator Jolie Justus says she speaks for thousands of Missouri women who are tired of being used as political pawns: “I have thousands of citizens who feel this is not an issue of religious freedom, but that this is typical election year politics.”
Another woman senator charges the bill is part of a trend in discriminatory legislation pushed by Republicans this year. But Cunningham says it protects pro-life employers and religious institutions who otherwise would be forced by federal rules to provide insurance for procedures that terminate life. She says it does not keep anybody from having an abortion, get contraception, or be sterilized to prevent pregnancy.
Both Republican women senators voted for the bill. All four Democrat women senators voted against it. Two Democrats joined 24 Republicans in passing the bill 26-5.
The bill is SB748