St. Louis, Missouri – A federal court has ruled against a newly-enacted Missouri law that sought to block Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate by allowing religious-owned businesses to be exempt from the requirement.
In September of this year, Missouri legislators enacted the law, overriding a veto from Democratic Governor Jay Nixon. It had initially passed in May, 28-6 in the Senate and 105-33 in the House.
Contending that it was unacceptable for the Obama administration to force Christians and other religious groups to pay for the contraceptives of their employees against their convictions, legislators drafted the statute to provide a way out of the mandate.
“This bill is about religious freedom and moral convictions,” stated Representative Sandy Crawford of Buffalo. “This is about sending a message to the federal government that we don’t like things rammed down our throat.”
The law required that insurance companies in the state create policies without contraceptive coverage that may be purchased by businesses and other organizations who state that the coverage violates their religious beliefs.
“The bill states that no employer or health plan provider can be compelled to provide coverage or be penalized for refusing to cover abortion, contraception or sterilization if those items run contrary to their religious or moral convictions,” outlined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The bill also gives the state attorney general grounds to sue other governmental officials or entities that infringe on the rights granted in the legislation.”
After the legislation went into effect, the Missouri Insurance Coalition challenged the law in federal court, stating that it created a no-win situation for insurance companies statewide. The Coalition asserted that it could be fined severely by the federal government if it failed to comply with the Affordable Care Act, but if it did not provide religious exemptions as required by the new law, it could likewise be fined by Missouri officials.
Upon reviewing the matter, District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama in 2010, sided with the Missouri Insurance Coalition.
“Insurers are placed in an untenable position as they cannot comply with both statues at the same time,” she wrote in her decision.
Fleissig stated that the Constitution outlines that when state law and federal law conflict, the federal government trumps state government.
Missouri Senator John Lamping told reporters that he was not surprised by the ruling, but also did not lose heart about the matter.
“That’s the logical thing that I thought would ultimately occur post-election,” Lamping said. “Clearly, this is an issue at the federal level that remains unresolved.”
He noted that the various circuit courts have been divided over the issue — some granting injunctions and others refusing to issue an exemption — and that the contraceptive mandate may have to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.
As previously reported, just last week, religious educational institutions across the country won a major victory in the fight against Obamacare as the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of two colleges after the Obama administration offered to re-write the contraceptive mandate so that religious schools could benefit from an exemption.
However, it is not clear whether the Obama administration plans to also create an exemption for Christian-owned businesses. Attorneys representing the Health and Human Services Department have been arguing in court that businesses cannot be exempt from the contraceptive mandate because a business is considered a secular facility.