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Judge Blocks Missouri’s|Birth-Control Exclusion

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge blocked implementation of a Missouri law that excuses employers from obeying the federal mandate to include birth control in employees' health-care coverage.

U.S. District Judge Audry Fleissig found that the state law conflicts with federal law and puts insurance companies in a no-win position.

The U.S. Constitution holds that federal law trumps state law when there is a conflict, Fleissig wrote.

Missouri enacted its law 3 months ago after its Republican-dominated Legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

The law requires insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if such birth control violates the religious or moral beliefs of an individual or employer.

The law may have been the first in the nation to directly challenge President Barack Obama's mandate that employee health insurance cover birth control for women at no additional cost, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Missouri Insurance Coalition, representing the insurance industry, challenged the law in Federal Court. It claimed the law put insurers in a no-win situation: Insurers could face federal penalties for violating Obama's mandate, but could face state penalties for violating the state's law.

Fleissig agreed with the coalition.

"Insurers are placed in an untenable position, as they cannot comply with both statues at the same time," Fleissig wrote.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction has yet to be set.

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