Missouri lawmakers enacted new religious exemptions from insurance coverage of birth control Wednesday, overriding a gubernatorial veto, and delivering a political rebuke to an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover contraception.
Although Missouri and 20 other states already had some sort of exemption from contraceptive coverage, Missouri's newly expanded law appears to be the first in the nation directly rebutting the federal contraception mandate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and supporters of the law.
The Senate vote was 26-6. The House vote was 109-45, the minimum needed for an override. Most provisions of the new law took effect immediately, though some parts won't kick in for another 30 days.
The Missouri measure was championed by the Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri Right to Life, and other religious and pro-life groups. Supporters said it is meant to register their disapproval of the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate.
Numerous pending lawsuits claim the federal policy infringes on religious rights, including one filed Wednesday by Christian-oriented Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.
"This bill is about protecting our religious liberties. This bill is about protecting businesses from the overreach of government," said Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, who handled the legislation in the House.