Tell Gov. Nixon to sign SB 749, bill to protect religious liberty of insurance consumers

Religious liberty advocates are urging Missourians to contact Gov. Jay Nixon and call on him to sign SB 749 into law, after many influential groups — from Planned Parenthood to the Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO — are pressuring Nixon to veto the bill.

Nixon has until July 14 to act on the bill, which would protect Missouri individual and group insurance consumers from paying for coverage, such as contraceptives and abortions, that violates their moral or religious beliefs. Many people assume that Nixon will either sign the bill into law or — as he did with two previous pro-life bills — let the bill become law without his signature.

But, according to Mike Hoey, MCC executive director, "opponents of SB 749 are ramping up their veto campaign."

Hoey said, "Gov. Nixon is under tremendous pressure to veto SB 749. He is being told that the bill is about contraceptives, not religious liberty and rights of conscience. This is a lie, but if a lie is told long enough people begin to believe it."

Nixon has received more that 3,000 emails on the issue, the majority from opponents of the bill, according to Deacon Sam Lee of All Souls Parish in Overland, a longtime Missouri pro-life lobbyist

Lee said that, if figures cited in a recent AP story are correct, "opponents of SB 749 are outnumbering pro-life supporters of SB 749 by about 2,000 (1,000 from Sierra Club members alone!) asking for a veto and 1,000 asking the governor to sign. This is bad. This is very bad. Pro-life supporters of SB 749 should be outnumbering opponents by many, many margins and by thousands and thousands of people. Instead, pro-lifers are being outnumbered 2-1 in one of the most pro-life states in the country!" 

While such expected opponents as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly National Abortion Rights Action League) are calling for the veto, so are the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Sierra Club, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO. The opposition of the large labor organization is particularly sad, since the Catholic Church has long been a strong supporter of unions and the rights of workers, said Hoey.

The AFL-CIO, which has dubbed SB 749 as the Birth Control Refusal Bill, "is misreading SB 749, or maybe not reading the bill at all," according to the MCC. The legislation retains provisions of current law that ensure that women who want to purchase coverage for contraceptives can do so, even when their employer opts not to pay for contraceptives.

"Apparently, the AFL-CIO believes that workers should be forced to pay for elective abortions even if this violates their most cherished moral and religious convictions. This is essentially an attack on workers by an organization that claims to protect workers," Hoey said.

Not all union members agree with the AFL-CIO's stance. Kevin Madden is a retired reporter for the St. Louis Labor Tribune newspaper and a member of the United Media Guild, part of the Communications Workers of America, which is part of the AFL-CIO. Madden, who is also a member of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, said, "As a proponent of religious liberty in this country, I would have to say I support this bill (SB 749). We are talking about religious organizations being forced to offer contraceptives, which goes against our religious beliefs."

If SB 749 becomes state law, it would give the attorney general authority to file suit in state and/or federal court to protect the religious liberties of individual and group insurance consumers, including religious institutions, who do not want to be compelled to have abortion, contraception or sterilization coverage in their health plans.

However, Deacon Lee said, "I have not yet seen a story where a reporter has asked AG Koster whether he plans on filing suit to defend religious liberty if SB 749 becomes law."

Responding to that question from the St. Louis Review , Nanci Gonder, Koster's press secretary in the Missouri Attorney General's Office, wrote, “Current Missouri law, enforced by the Department of Insurance, allows companies and consumers to exclude coverage for abortion and contraception, based on religious beliefs.  If SB 749 becomes law, we will review all reported violations and consider appropriate actions based on our findings.”

CONTACT GOV. NIXON NOW

Urge the governor to sign SB 749 — the bill protecting individual and group insurance consumers in Missouri from paying for coverage that violates their religious beliefs. Gov. Jay Nixon has until July 14 to act. He has received more than 3,000 comments on the bill, many from large, organized opposition.

Let your voice be heard.

Call Gov. Nixon at (573) 751-3222 or go online to http://governor.mo.gov/contact/ 

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