Monday MONITOR

Monday, February 27, 2012                                                                                                                            

Contact:  Michelle Trupiano – 573.424.8717 (c)

SENATOR LAMPING’S BIRTH CONTROL REFUSAL BILL DEBATED IN SENATE

     SB749 (Lamping, R-14), the Birth Control Refusal Bill, which was heard and approved in committee last week, was first up on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. Sen. Lamping argued that the bill simply protects employers from being told they must cover procedures with which they have a moral objection, especially religiously-affiliated institutions. Sen. Justus, however, called the bill for what it is: “There are a large group of people out there….who object to vaccines; they object to blood transfusions….And if we’re talking about true religious freedom, it should not be limited to reproductive health. But this isn’t about religious freedom. It’s about the national political debate as we head into the next presidential election,” [Missourinet, 02.21.12]. Sens. Justus and Green debated the lack of any definition of ‘sterilization’ in the bill and suggested this could lead health plans to not cover procedures such as a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation. Sens. Callahan and Schaaf discussed the burden that would be placed on the AG to prosecute employers for covering procedures that employees might object to. After two hours, the bill was laid over.

BIRTH CONTROL REFUSAL “MESSAGE” FAST-TRACKED IN HOUSE

     Following the lead of the Senate which ‘fast-tracked’ SB749 through committee and to the floor of the Senate, House leadership sent HCR41 (Curtmann, R-105) to Rules Committee on Thursday for a hearing and voted it out on Monday.  HCR41 is a time-wasting resolution designed to send a ‘strong message’ to Congress that Missouri’s anti-abortion Representatives oppose health plan coverage of birth control. Rules Committee, surprised to be ‘hearing’ the bill, heard from Tyler McClay, legal counsel for the MO Catholic Conference, who raised a new and unsubstantiated attack on birth control suggesting ‘studies show’ that long-term use of contraception causes abortion. Rep. Carlson respectfully asked for the documentation.

      The House took up the resolution for debate on Wednesday. Rep. Jeannette Mott Oxford offered an amendment to correct the medically inaccurate statement equating Plan B with abortion.  It failed 108 to 48, but picked up bi-partisan support. After several hours of debate—during which time the Speaker ignored seven pro-choice women standing at their mikes—debate was shut off and the resolution approved 114 to 45.  Thanks to Reps. Jones, Talboy, Nichols, Kelly, Monticello, Morgan, Hughes, Ellinger and Mott Oxford who spoke against. Upon adjournment, the ‘Silenced Seven’ women legislators and many colleagues held a press conference on the Capitol Steps criticizing leadership for ignoring those most impacted by the content of the resolution. “These women stood and waited to be recognized for two hours,” said Rep. Tishaura Jones (D-63). “They never got a chance to speak on an issue that is unique to women.”

THE CPC “UNTOUCHABLES” BILL HEARD IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

      HB1357 (Gatschenberger, R-13), was heard Wednesday in House Children and Families Committee. This bill would ensure that crisis pregnancy centers can never be regulated by any political sub-division in the state.   CPC’s are on record providing false and misleading information to vulnerable women and are currently not required to provide medically factual or accurate information to them.  Sam Lee, advocating in support, complained that CPCs in other states have been subject to requirements that they post signs indicating what services they do and do not provide.  This, he noted, has led to costly court battles for them.  Rep. Judy Morgan (D-39), reading directly from Missouri’s informed consent for abortion law, asked why CPCs would object to being asked to post such minimal information when abortion providers have been asked to post so much more. Without missing a beat, Sam Lee responded that he agreed with those requirements, but not with forcing CPCs to post signs.

'MAD MEN' VS. ANGRY WOMEN? 'CULTURE WAR' RERUNS IN CONTRACEPTION DEBATE

By Robert Koenig, Beacon Washington correspondent | 02.22.12  | excerpted

     WASHINGTON — Is it “Mad Men” versus Angry Women? Religious liberty versus secular freedom? Or “rights of conscience” versus rights of contraception? No matter how you view the hot debate over the Obama administration’s new rule on contraceptives coverage — and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s “Rights of Conscience” amendment that would block it — many hear echoes of the “culture wars” of previous decades over issues like birth control. 

      Today the Missouri House approved by a vote of 114-45 its own resolution opposing the new contraception rule; it was denounced by women in the Democratic minority as affecting access to contraceptives. In Clayton, about 150 protesters demonstrated outside the office of Blunt, R-Mo., complaining that his amendment represented an “attack on women’s health” — a charge that the senator vehemently denies. And in Washington, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., planned a Capitol event Thursday featuring a woman “left out” of last week’s all-male panel at a House hearing on religious liberty and the contraceptives rule. […]

       “I feel like I'm waking up on a set of the ‘Mad Men’” — the TV series featuring 1960s-era ad executives — quipped Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., complaining about the all-male panel, the contraceptives debate, the “extreme” Blunt amendment and comments by a GOP donor who joked about the “aspirin between the knees” approach to birth control. As the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is using the issue — framed in terms of contraception rights, rather than religious liberty — to raise money. That includes a DSCC “Stand against the Blunt amendment” petition that has helped identify potential donors. Dozens of other organizations, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, are also using the issue. There’s also plenty of action on the opposite side. This week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — saying “we urgently need legislation to correct the mandate’s threats to religious liberty and conscience rights” —- sent out a new statement to be inserted in Catholic church bulletins urging parishioners to contact Congress to support Blunt’s bill. […]

      With his issue in the national spotlight — Newsweek declaring that “the culture wars [are] roaring back,” church groups demanding action and conservatives like Sarah Palin weighing in from the right — Blunt has remained typically low key in appearances across Missouri during the Senate’s recess this week. While many observers expect a Senate vote on Blunt’s measure as an amendment to a major transportation bill next week, that is not yet a done deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had at first blocked Blunt’s amendment and later said he would allow a vote, gave mixed signals late Friday, complaining that senators were proposing hundreds of amendments to the transportation bill and seeking to limit those. 

      Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the second-ranking Senate Democrat, has said opponents have the votes to defeat Blunt’s amendment, which would need 60 votes to pass. Blunt can likely count on at least 37 votes for his measure, given that it mirrors a bill with that many cosponsors that he and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., introduced last summer. He told reporters last week that he expects “another Democrat or two” to back the amendment. That won’t include Missouri’s senior senator, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who told reporters last week that Blunt’s amendment goes “too far.” She said she is “very concerned about the war on contraception” now being waged by some conservatives. “If we want to now decide that whether or not a woman can get birth control depends on who she works for, I just think that is a giant step backward for our country. And I think the women of this country are going to be beyond upset about that notion.” […]

      And there seemed some doubt on exactly when a vote will occur on Blunt’s measure. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a vocal opponent of Blunt’s amendment who chairs the main Senate committee with jurisdiction over transportation, complained on Friday: “We shouldn’t be bringing controversial, unrelated amendments to the highway bill, because 2.8 million jobs are hanging in the balance.” Read full article here.

RECLAIMING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Excerpts from OpEd by Jon O’Brien, Catholics For a Free Choice | St. Louis Post Dispatch, 02.23.12

     […] It is unquestionable that the church hierarchy has been unsuccessful at convincing rank-and-file Catholics to reject birth control. When the ban on family planning was first announced in 1968, the U.S. bishops agreed with their brethren in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, France and Holland, recognizing that ultimately, the decision about using contraception is not theirs to make. They each said that although church teaching favors natural family planning, should a Catholic woman wish not to become pregnant, an honest decision about which method to use, made in good conscience, is the correct one for her. And it must be respected. […]

     Catholics are called to demonstrate "respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all" in the "careful observance of the principle of religious freedom." We can only hope that the bishops take this important Catholic teaching into account as this debate continues.

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