St. Louis, Missouri – A federal judge appointed by Barack Obama has struck down a law in Missouri that allowed religious-owned businesses and individual persons of faith to be exempt from the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.
As previously reported, in September of last 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.
Judge Audrey Fleissig, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama in 2010, issued an injunction against the new law in December, stating that it puts insurance companies in a difficult and unfair position.
This month, Flessig issued her final decision about the matter, citing a clause in the United States Constitution that declares that state law can not supersede federal law.
“Here, the federal law and regulations, with limited exceptions, provide that insurers must provide contraceptive coverage, without cost-sharing,” Fleissig explained. “The state law says that insurers cannot provide contraceptive coverage to any person or entity that objects to such coverage based on any moral, ethical, or religious objection.”
“The court is hard-pressed to see how this does not create a direct conflict for Missouri health insurers,” she said. “The court rejects defendant’s argument that the state law does not conflict with the federal law because the state law provides more coverage for contraceptives. The state law does not provide more coverage-without-cost-sharing, the kind of coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act.”
Fleissig stated that she did not reach the merits of the Obamacare mandate in her decision.
State Attorney General Chris Koster has not yet stated whether he will appeal the ruling.