JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A bill that would allow employers to refuse insurance coverage for birth control has passed the Missouri Senate, and a bill that would allow medical professionals protection for refusing to provide birth-control services passed in the state House.
The Senate bill, sponsored by John Lamping, R-Ladue, would allow employers to deny coverage unless the worker has a medical need for birth control.
Sterilization would be covered if it was medically necessary or if a person elects to be sterilized so that he or she would not pass on a genetic disease to their children.
The bill passed by 26-5 vote, with three abstentions. It now goes to the House.
Lamping said the bill is in response to President Barack Obama's policy requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of birth control at no additional cost to women working at religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and colleges, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
State Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, called Obama's mandate an attack on religious freedom.
"I don't think it's a women's issue at all and I'm a woman," Cunningham told the News-Leader. "I see it as a religious issue, which of course, it is. That's the crux of this thing: Paying for something that is against your First Amendment rights."
Democrats say the intent of the bill is to make it harder for women to obtain birth control by making them pay for it out-of-pocket.
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said the bill would allow employers to dictate medical decisions.
"This bill is about having the right to protect our own bodies, it has everything to do with that," Chappelle-Nadal told the News-Leader. "I want to have the capacity to be covered by my insurance forever, for whatever I need."
The House measure would prohibit discrimination or punishment against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to participate in procedures that violate their religious or ethical beliefs. The bill includes abortions, contraception and embryonic stem-cell research. The bill passed the Republican-controlled House by a 97-41 vote and now goes to the Senate.