Missouri House speaker urges birth control appeal

House Speaker Tim Jones asked the state’s attorney general Wednesday to appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down Missouri’s contraception insurance exemption for people with moral objections.

Jones sent a letter to Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster urging him to appeal the ruling on grounds of religious freedom and to challenge a policy by President Barack Obama’s administration that requires insurers to cover birth control at no additional cost to women.

“Without (the state’s exemption), numerous Missouri citizens, businesses and religious organizations will be forced to either pay massive fines or provide insurance coverage for their employees for procedures that run counter to their religious beliefs,” Jones, a Republican from Eureka, said in his letter to Koster.

Missouri’s Republican-led General Assembly passed the measure last year in response to Obama’s contraception policy. The overturned law allowed individuals, employers and insurers to cite religious or moral exemptions from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the measure, saying Missouri already has strong religious exemptions in its insurance laws. But Republicans and a few of Nixon’s fellow Democrats overrode the veto last September, automatically enacting the legislation.

A U.S. District Court judge struck down Missouri’s law last week and said it ran contrary to the provisions of Obama’s health care law. The judge noted that federal laws takes precedence over conflicting state laws.

The spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, Nanci Gonder, said Wednesday that the office has not decided whether to appeal.