Health
3:10 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Judge Strikes Down Mo. Law Challenging Contraceptive Mandate

A federal judge has struck down a Missouri law that directly challenges the so-called contraceptive mandate under the federal health law. The result of the judge’s actions mean Missouri health plans have to include no-cost options for contraceptives.

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Senate Bill 749, approved after the state legislature overrode the governor’s veto last year, would have required insurance companies to exclude birth control coverage if employers had religious objections. The bill was supposed to take effect at the beginning of the year and is a direct response to a federal provision of the Affordable Care Act, requiring that most employee health plans include no-cost coverage of contraceptives.  

But the two conflicting rules presented a problem for insurance companies in the state, according to Brent Butler with the Missouri Insurance Coalition.

"The way it was set up, if you follow the federal law, you’re violating state law and if follow state law you're violating federal law," Butler said.

The coalition filed a lawsuit last year, seeking clarification on which law to follow.

A U.S. district court in eastern Missouri issued a temporary hold on the state law right before it was slated to take effect, but it has now struck down the Missouri law, ruling that federal law trumps state law in these instances.

The Missouri’s Attorney General’s office has not said whether it plans to appeal the ruling.

The federal birth control mandate has faced strong objections and legal challenges from some religious and non-religious groups around the country, including several in Missouri. They allege the no-cost contraceptive coverage violates their religious and moral freedom.

Earlier this year, a court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the St. Louis Archdiocese and Catholic Charities. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the process of revising the rule.