San. Lamping of Missouri sponsors legislation to halt federal health care mandate

A Missouri senator has introduced a bill that seeks to halt the federal mandate requiring health coverage for contraception, sterilizations and abortion-producing drugs.

Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis, is sponsoring SB 749 to halt the mandate recently issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The bill is supported by the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops.

"I want to send a message to Washington that the people of Missouri will not stand for this intrusion on religious liberty," said Lamping.

The federal mandate will require all employers, effective Aug. 1, 2012, to provide coverage in their health care plans for contraception, sterilizations and abortion-producing drugs. The mandate has a limited religious exemption that would protect only Catholic institutions that seek to inculcate Catholic values and "primarily" employ and serve Catholics.

At a minimum, Catholic hospitals, universities and charities that serve non-Catholics would not qualify for the exemption.

Lamping's bill states that no employer or health plan shall be required to provide health coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization, if such items are contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the employer.

The bill also would prevent the federal government from discriminating against or penalizing an employer or health plan for refusing to provide such coverage. Individuals could not be forced to purchase health plans that include coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if they are contrary to their religious or moral beliefs.

"The Obama Administration has decided that virtually unfettered access to contraceptives, abortion-inducing emergency contraceptives and sterilization is more important than the religious liberty of Americans and people of faith," said Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference. "We applaud Sen. Lamping for bringing this matter before the Missouri General Assembly for debate and consideration."

Co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

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