The Pitch Plog reports that one day after the retrograde Missouri legislature voted to override Governor Nixon’s veto of their anti-contraception bill, SB749, which will attempt allow business owners to deny women federally mandated birth control in their group plans, the Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women (GKCCLUW) have filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court to have it overturned. The rationale for the suit is that the law violates federal law and discriminates based on religion and gender.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me, all things being equal, that the GKCCLUW might a good shot at knocking this absurdity down. It’s hard to deny that federal law trumps state law in these situations. It’s also pretty clear that the Missouri law is intended to privilege specific, narrow religious beliefs to the detriment of a single class of persons, women, who do not necessarily share those beliefs. It’s also possible to argue that it allows insurers to use the personal religious convictions of some employers as an excuse to shortchange women who are entitled to mandated preventive health care under the ACA.
There are well-established precedents in United States law which hold that the common good trumps claims of religious freedom when there is a conflict between the two. Christian Scientist parents, for example, who withhold life-saving medical treatment from their children may face criminal charges. Likewise, Quakers must pay taxes even though the taxes support military expenditures to which they object on religious grounds. How are anti-birth control religious any different from Quakers? Does it have anything to do with an implicit, emerging political alliance between right-wing politicians and the belligerent and rightwards veering Council of Catholic Bishops who seem more than willing to trash the preferential option for the poor to keep the heat on errant Catholic women who use birth control?
The GKCCLUW is doing a good thing; I expect that other groups may follow – or join – them. The sad part of this story is that the cash-strapped State of Missouri may have to defend this stupid piece of legislation.