Birth control legislation advances in Missouri Senate

The Missouri Senate gave first-round approval Tuesday to a measure letting employers refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control in some instances.

The legislation, endorsed in a voice vote, would let employers deny coverage unless an employee has a medical need for birth control.

Democrats called the measure a “do-nothing” bill, noting that most of the bill’s provisions are already in state law and that Republicans had merely brought the bill up to appease religious voters.

The measure must be approved once more before it goes to the Missouri House.

Meanwhile, in another voice vote, House members endorsed legislation allowing health care providers to refuse tasks that violate their religious or ethical beliefs.

The legislation would prohibit punishment of doctors, nurses and others who refuse to participate in abortions, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research and certain other procedures. Workers could not be fired or suspended or have wages reduced.

Health care institutions also would not be required to perform medical procedures or research that violate their beliefs.

It needs another round of approval before moving to the Senate.