JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri's largest group of labor unions is calling on Gov. Jay Nixon to veto a bill that would allow employers to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization or abortion.
The Missouri AFL-CIO is asking its members to contact the governor to urge him to veto the contraception measure, calling it "anti-worker." The bill, which was passed on the legislative session's final day, states that no employer or health plan provider can be compelled to provide coverage of abortion, contraception or sterilization if doing so violates their religious or moral convictions.
The union equated it to two other bills Nixon vetoed earlier this year -- one that would make it harder to prove discrimination claims in court and another that would have moved occupational diseases to the workers' compensation system.
"Allowing employers to dictate the quality of women’s health care is wrong for Missouri," the union said in an email to its supporters. "We urge Gov. Nixon to veto this anti-worker legislation so that women and men can continue to have access to health care, not determined by political agendas."
The bill was a direct response to an Obama administration policy requiring contraception coverage for most insurance plans, although it did include exemptions which allows churches and houses of worship to refuse to provide birth control for their employees. The federal policy did not pertain to abortion or sterilization.
To its supporters, the bill is is about ensuring religious freedom. To its detractors, it's an attempt to limit access to birth control.
The issue is now in the hands of Nixon, a Democrat, who has until July 14 to act. For the last two years, the governor has not taken action on major abortion bills, instead allowing them to become law without his signature.
How he'll ultimately decide is not known. In February, Nixon questioned the need for such legislation, since “we already have a strong religious and moral exemption on the books here in Missouri.” But since then he's been silent in public on the issue.
In urging a veto, the Missouri AFL-CIO said working people should be able to "continue to make decisions based on their own religious beliefs and moral convictions, not those of their employer."