Planned Parenthood supporters rally in 2015 outside the agency's clinic in St. Louis after a mass shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

State officials charged with overseeing Missouri’s changes in its women’s health program for the poor are officially estimating it will be next April before a new state-funded program is in place that bars Planned Parenthood from participating.

Missouri’s Department of Social Services has posted its phase-out plan on its website. It comes after Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that it will take months for the state to replace its federally funded women’s health program – which must include Planned Parenthood – with a state-funded program that does not.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Senate Republicans plan to vote on legislation next week stripping nearly $540 million from Planned Parenthood following the release of undercover videos that appear to show organization officials talking casually about selling fetal tissue and organs. Those videos, released by an anti-abortion group, have outraged abortion opponents and ignited a swift response on Capitol Hill.

National Institutes of Health

A federal appeals court has resurrected a St. Louis area legislator’s battle against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance cover birth control.

Last year, a lower court had tossed out state Sen. Paul Wieland’s suit against several federal agencies over the requirement. But the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, ruled Monday that Wieland’s suit can proceed.

A new report shows Missouri's unintended pregnancy rate has dropped. Some researchers say it could be due to increased usage of long-lasting contraceptives like IUDs.
(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

A new study released Monday shows Missouri saw a significant decrease in unintended pregnancies in recently measured years.

Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor

Giving teenagers access to free, long-term contraception can dramatically reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. That's according to new research out of Washington University in St. Louis.

The study is part of a larger effort called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project, whose goal is to promote long-acting forms of birth control like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants in order to reduce unplanned pregnancies in the St. Louis region.

Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial

The lawyer for state Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, predicts that his suit against mandated contraceptive coverage will help launch an avalanche of court challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s provision requiring insurance companies to offer such benefits.

But first Wieland needs to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate his case. A lower court had tossed it out.

U.S. Supreme Court
Matt H. Wade | Wikipedia

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision may not be as big a threat to contraceptive coverage for women as it first appeared.

After a few weeks of legal sleuthing, several leading Supreme Court experts think the court has signaled it will approve a compromise to provide free contraceptive coverage to women who work for companies and religious nonprofits that object to the coverage on religion grounds.

U.S. Supreme Court

Update: U.S. district court grants St. Louis Archdiocese an injunction from enforcement of the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage, even with the existing religious accommodation.

Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor

New research out of Washington University has found that giving women free birth control does not increase risky sexual behavior.

The analysis included 7,751 St. Louis-area women between the ages of 14 and 45.

It was part of an even larger effort called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project, whose goal is to promote the use of long-term contraceptive methods like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Medical personnel who wish to opt out of participating in procedures that violate their religious or personal beliefs are one step closer to being allowed to do so legally in Missouri.

(Via Flickr/Rosemary)

Legislation to allow medical professionals to refuse to take part in procedures that violate their religious or personal beliefs was heard Wednesday by a Missouri House committee.

State Rep. Paul Wieland could be starting a trend in Missouri with his suit that challenges the Missouri government’s new group insurance coverage that covers sterilization and contraceptives, including some birth-control drugs or devices that he says induce abortion.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Attorney General Chris Koster won’t appeal a federal court decision striking down a new state law that allows employers to exclude contraception, abortion or sterilization from insurance coverage.

Koster, a Democrat, asked the federal judge who wrote the decision to amend her ruling so that religious organizations could exclude contraceptive coverage if they’re exempt under federal law.

(via Flickr/mike matney)

The U.S. Supreme Court, last week, heard arguments on two gay rights cases which may produce landmark rulings. 

The Missouri legislature is considering banning the use of drones by journalists while the University of Missouri Journalism School is teaching students how to use them.

And, Missouri’s contraception exception law is no more – at least for now.

Those and other topics were discussed as part of our monthly legal roundtable.

Our guests:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, is calling on state Attorney General Chris Koster to appeal last week’s court ruling that blocks provisions of a new state law that allows employers to exclude contraception, abortion or sterilization from insurance coverage.

Jones said in a statement Wednesday that Koster, a Democrat, must “immediately appeal this case and defend the rights of Missouri citizens by challenging the contraception mandate as unconstitutional. Missourians need to be protected from mandates that violate their religious beliefs.”

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Updated 12:02 p.m. Edited formatting 12:44 p.m.

Health care workers could refuse to participate in procedures or research that violates their religious, moral or ethical principles under a measure passed by the Missouri House.

The House sent the measure to the Senate Tuesday with a 116-41 vote.

Earlier story:

The Missouri House has given first-round approval to legislation that would allow medical workers to refuse to take part in procedures that violate their religious or ethical beliefs.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Four bills dealing with the ongoing cultural battle surrounding women’s reproductive health were heard Monday night before a Missouri Senate committee.

They include a measure that would require a doctor to be physically present whenever abortion-inducing drugs are administered to a woman.  It’s sponsored by freshman Senator Wayne Wallingford (R, Cape Girardeau).  He says women who take RU-486 or other abortion-inducing drugs at home run a severe risk of complications.

via Flickr/brains the head

A federal judge has blocked a new Missouri law requiring insurers to offer policies excluding birth control coverage because it conflicts with a federal law mandating such coverage.<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Judge Audry Fleissig issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the Missouri law. It was enacted in September when the Republican-led Legislature overrode a veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri is one of nine states where lawmakers are forming caucuses they say will focus on preserving religious freedom.

Departing State Representative Mike McGhee (R, Odessa) is organizing Missouri’s caucus.  He says one of their functions will be to consult with lawmakers in other states on making sure that the language used in bills doesn’t result in the erosion of religious rights.

(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

Giving women free access to contraception can dramatically reduce abortion rates.

That's the finding of a new study out today from Washington University School of Medicine.

Researchers gave more than 9,000 St. Louis-area women free birth control for three years.

(via Flickr/brains the head)

A federal judge in St. Louis has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the contraception mandate of the federal health care law.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Frank O'Brien and his company, O'Brien Industrial Holdings LLC of St. Louis, was one of nearly three dozen cases nationally challenging the constitutionality of regulations in the health care law. Among other things, O'Brien, a devout Catholic, claimed the requirement to pay for birth control infringes on his religious beliefs.

(via Flickr/mike matney)

Some legal rulings leave us scratching our head but for widely different reasons.  Don Marsh hosts our monthly legal roundtable.  We wonder what a judge was thinking when she left important court decisions to her clerks, why a judge approved a sex change operation for a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, and other legal issues. 

(via Flickr/brains the head)

Updated 5:06 p.m. with comments from Mo. House Speaker Pro-tem Shane Schoeller and from Planned Parenthood.

Updated 12:38 p.m. with response from Archdiocese of St. Louis

Updated 11:58 a.m. with full remarks from Nixon.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed a bill designed to thwart President Obama’s contraceptive mandate in Missouri.

Thousands of emails and letters are flooding the Missouri governor's office as he decides whether to sign health insurance legislation.

The Republican-led Legislature approved a measure stating no employer or health plan provider can be compelled to provide coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if those items run contrary to their religious or moral convictions.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has until mid-July to veto the bill, or it will take effect.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Around 200 people rallied at the Missouri Capitol today against President Obama’s mandate that employers provide coverage for contraceptive services.

Churches are exempt from the mandate, but religious non-profit organizations, such as schools and hospitals, are not.  John Gaydos is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.

“Religious freedom is not merely about our ability to attend church on Sunday," Gaydos said.  "It is impossible to exercise that religious freedom and at the same time compromise the faith that inspires us to action.”

A new report shows Missouri's unintended pregnancy rate has dropped. Some researchers say it could be due to increased usage of long-lasting contraceptives like IUDs.
(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

A new study out of Washington University has found that long-term birth control methods are 20 times more effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies.

The research compared the rates of contraceptive failure in women using long-term methods like intrauterine devices or contraceptive implants to those using short-term methods like oral birth control pills or a contraceptive patch.

(via Flickr/brains the head)

Missouri senators have passed legislation specifically allowing employers to refuse, on religious ground, to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization or abortion.

The Senate's 28-6 vote Friday moved the bill to the Missouri House, where it was passed during mid-afternoon.

(Tim Bommell/Mo. House Communications)

It's the final day of the regular legislative session for the Missouri General Assembly.

Lawmakers have spent the past week clearing a backlog of bills that accumulated during a showdown over the state budget.

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Larry Rice arrested at new homeless camp

The Rev. Larry Rice was among four people arrested last night at the site of a new homeless encampment in south St. Louis.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

Two rallies in Jefferson City today each called for the repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and for employers to have the right to not provide coverage for birth control.

Several hundred people attended the rally held at the State Capitol, led by several religious leaders.  Maggie Karner with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod told the crowd that President Obama’s birth control mandate is an attack on religious freedom.

“This debate is simply about us being forced to pay for products and services that are contrary to our religious beliefs, and we cannot be expected to check our faith at the door," Karner said.