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Missouri House Gives First-Round Approval To 'Health Care Conscience' Bill

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Mo. Capitol

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.

The Missouri House granted first round approval Wednesday to House Bill 1430, which is sponsored by House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.  It's one of his top priorities for the 2014 legislative session, and he said it's needed to protect health-care workers from an "over-intrusive federal government."

"I think we would all presume that a Catholic hospital would probably not want to provide abortions and would probably not do that," Jones said during floor debate.  "That may be common sense for a lot of people, but in this world and in this day and age we have government inserting itself in all sorts of areas it probably shouldn't, and forcing people to do things they probably shouldn't."

The measure would also make it illegal for any public official or institution to discriminate against an individual or institution that refuses to perform any specific medical procedure.  Existing law already forbids "discrimination by employer...because of failure of employee to participate in abortions."  House Bill 1430 would add "abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization which is not medically necessary, assisted reproduction" (i.e., in vitro fertilization), "human cloning, human embryonic stem-cell research, human somatic cell nuclear transfer, fetal tissue research, and non-therapeutic fetal experimentation."

State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, spoke against the bill on the House floor, saying it primarily targets women patients.

"Is there a hidden agenda there?" Newman said.  "It's actually patients who are going to be suffering, it's going to be women patients who are going to suffer…there's nothing to preclude a physician or staff from changing their mind at the last second (before a procedure is to be performed)."

House Bill 1430 passed 116-38 on a mostly party-line vote, with 10 Democrats joining the GOP majority in voting "yes."  State Rep. Chris Molendorp of Belton cast the lone Republican "no" vote.  The bill needs one more vote by the full House before moving to the Missouri Senate.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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