A House-Senate Committee could be next to consider a package containing a number of measures related to religious objections to abortions and birth control.

Representatives Mike Colona and Jay Barnes (photos courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

The measure contains several proposals that have been heard earlier in the session. One would prevent employers or employees from being forced to provide or obtain insurance coverage for abortion, sterilization or birth control and would bar discrimination or penalty against those employers or employees. It also includes language to let health care workers and institutions opt out of procedures they have moral, ethical or religious objections to.

See the legislation, SB 749.

Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says the package is in response to the Affordable Care Act, “To protect us from something that this nation has been struggling with for over two years and that’s the onerous mandates contained in the federal healthcare takeover. The bill that is currently under consideration in the Supreme Court.”

Several St. Louis Democrats spoke against the package. Representative Susan Carlson (D-St. Louis) says it accomplishes nothing. “This is a waste of our time, it’s a waste of this body’s energy and intelligence and the taxpayers money of this state. This is going to get resolved. It’s in court already. This is just a way for people to get more attention drawn to this issue.”

Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) calls the bill part of a “war on women.” She also says it could have a lot of unintended consequences. “It also will deny insurance coverage based on any procedures for sterilization … any kind of medical treatment leading to sterility could be denied under this. Medical professionals could even refuse to process bills, they can refuse to handle medical records, even set up an exam room if they have a medical objection to the procedure that a physician has required of me.”

An amendment added to the bill would let employees decline to pay into group insurance plans that offer coverage for elective abortions.

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) sponsored the language. “My amendment says very simply that those people who find it morally, ethically, religiously appalling that they might have to pay for an abortion don’t have to pay for them.” He asked House democrats opposing the bill, “Your side says constantly we shouldn’t be imposing religious beliefs or such on others. Why should people who want abortions have to force people who are pro-life to pay for them?”

Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) said the proposals will drive up insurance costs. “What we’re going to be doing, simply put, is pricing that coverage above what your average, ordinary, every day person can afford. I’d rather somebody look at me straight in the face and say we’re going to deny that to you because we think you’re wrong and we know better because we’re men than do it through the back door and jack up the price of coverage.”

The House and Senate have rejected one another’s versions of the legislation and could go to conference to try to hammer out differences. A committee would have to act quickly with the end of the legislative session coming tomorrow evening.

AUDIO:   Debate between Colona and Barnes about Barnes’ amendment becomes heated, 4:28