Category Archives: Pro-Life

A Crazy Abortion Lawsuit and Legislating Morality

This is not just a bad joke. This week in federal court a group of devil worshippers sued to overturn our state’s restrictions on abortion as a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and the Establishment Clause. (I’m not just calling them devil worshippers. The suit is literally brought on behalf of “The Satanic Temple.”)

While absurd, this lawsuit strikes at the heart of a key point in the abortion argument and governing philosophy in general. Abortion defenders often claim, “Well, you can’t legislate morality.” Not true.

We “legislate morality” all the time. In fact, most laws involve some moral judgment. Prohibitions on murder, rape, theft, assault, slavery, you name it, all involve moral judgments. Even civil laws with no criminal consequence involve morality. Take, for example, the Senior Savings Protection Act – which I handled and Gov. Nixon just signed – it’s underlying premise is that it’s morally wrong for a swindler to steal from vulnerable Missourians, so the law makes it easier to stop that fraud. That’s legislating morality.

Do these laws violate the Establishment Clause because they’re based on morality that’s entirely consistent and derived from religious values that are shared by nearly all religions? Of course not. Neither do our restrictions on abortion, an event that ends a life. In the case of the 72 hour waiting period, it’s not too much to ask three days wait before taking an entire lifetime away from a child.

Usually when someone argues, “We can’t legislate morality,” what they really mean is just, “We shouldn’t legislate morality” in this situation. In some senses, the statement that “we can’t legislate morality” is also true. No law will ever eliminate fraud or crime or any of the other things we prohibit or limit. Human beings will make bad choices regardless of what government tries to do. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. 

Federal Court Strikes Down Conscience Protection Bill – “Barnes Amendment” Remains Good Law

First the bad: Earlier this week, a federal judge struck down legislation we passed last year (over a Governor’s veto) to protect the religious liberties of Missouri employers forced by ObamaCare to pay for services for which they have a religious objection. 

Now the good: SB 749 was about more than just the religious liberties of Missouri employers. It also included what the Missouri Catholic Conference called “the Barnes Amendment,” a provision which ensures that no Missourian will ever be forced to pay for another’s elective abortion.

Section 376.1199.6 now provides that insurers must inform all Missourians with employer-sponsored health plans “whether an optional rider for elective abortions has been purchased” by the employer, and that all Missourians have “the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions if such coverage is contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.” 

Bill to Help Samaritan Center and Pregnancy Help Center Advances Out of Senate

The Senate approved legislation yesterday re-authorizing and extending benevolent tax credits, including credits for food pantries and pregnancy resource centers which, respectively, will help the Samaritan Center to the Pregnancy Help Center of Central Missouri to increase donations. The bill, SB 20, now heads over to the House where I hope it will move quickly. 

Don’t Let Un-elected Washington Bureaucrats Run a Missouri Health-Care Exchange

The Post-Dispatch reports today on the federal government taking control of a health insurance exchange in our state since the legislature has failed to authorize the creation of a state-based exchange. I manage to make it into the article:

“I believe the Legislature should move forward with creating a state-based health insurance exchange,” he said. “I’d rather have an exchange with rules set by people in Missouri than by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

Barnes said he understands the temptation to ignore mandates of the health care law.

“I don’t like it, either,” he said.

There are two considerations in whether to set up an exchange.

Subsidies for 2 of 3 Missourians

The first, which is not stated in the PD article, is that the new federal healthcare law provides subsidizes to Americans who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to help pay for insurance purchased through state-based exchanges. Four-hundred percent of FPL is a ridiculously high number for what are essentially “health care stamps.” For a family of four then, federal subsidies will be available for families making up to $92,200 per year. According to the Kaiser Foundation, nearly 4 million Missourians will be eligible for subsidies – or approximately 66 percent of Missouri’s population. Think about that: two of every three Missourians under the age of 65 will be receiving health care welfare under the new federal health care law!

Some will make the argument that we can stop implementation by refusing to create an exchange because the subsidies are not available in states that do not have state-run exchanges, and, if enough states refuse to create exchanges, there will be rebound effect nationally. Republicans in Congress argue the law clearly states subsidies are not available in states without state-run exchanges. The White House disagreed, and had the IRS draft a rule stating that everyone under 400% FPL is eligible whether they live in a state with a federally-run or a state-run exchange. Whether the IRS rule holds up in court or not remains to be seen – and it will be a long time before we know.

In the meantime, even if we assume that subsidies are not available to people in states that have not created state-based exchanges, the question is whether we deny Missourians the full benefits of the taxes they pay.

The ridiculousness of the level of subsidies is a great argument for repeal – in Washington. In Missouri, we don’t have that choice. Our choice is whether Missourians are going to be taxed to pay for this unaffordable mess in New York, California, Texas, and Florida, but then not get any benefits from it here in Missouri. By failing to create our own exchange, we shortchange the tax dollars of Missourians.

I don’t like the new federal health care law. I hate the idea of expanding welfare to two out of three Americans. But I also recognize the situation. Missouri state government cannot repeal the law on its own. To refuse to create the exchange is to tell Missourians that they have to pay the costs of the law, but can’t get any of the benefits. That might make folks feel like they’re newfound William Wallaces saving the Republic, but it will not change anything about federal policy – and it will shortchange our own citizens.

Establishing Our Own Rules

The second and more pressing issue is whether we want an exchange set-up and run by unelected bureaucrats in Washington over whom Missourians have little to no say – or whether we have one set up by elected officials here. Some might think that this has no practical implication – that Washington would put such strict limits on our flexibility that we have freedom in name only. I think this is dangerously wrong. For example, what if Kathleen Sebelius chooses to require plans within the exchange to offer elective abortion coverage?  I understand there’s a state law against coverage of elective abortions in a hypothetical insurance exchange. The question is whether the federal government will agree to follow that law in implementing an exchange here. Count me as a skeptic. If the feds ignored this, there would soon be a lawsuit, but do we want to chance it?

Protecting Women and Children from Violent Crime – Update on Joint Committee on Criminal Code

The Joint Committee on the Criminal Code had its fourth meeting yesterday and finally got to take some public testimony. I was dismayed to hear people who represent domestic violence shelters and children separately detail several huge loopholes in Missouri’s laws against rape and child sexual abuse. For example:

  • Statutory rape in the first degree is not considered a dangerous felony.
  • Sex offenders are allowed to be placed in a 120 day treatment program, and if they are, that’s not allowed to be held against them later if they re-offend.
  • First-degree statutory rape sentences may be run concurrently, allowing perpetrators to get out early.
  • Incest is not an aggravating factor to increasing the severity of a charge.
  • SIS and SES is not allowed for first degree or forcible rape, but it is allowed for first-degree statutory rape and sodomy.
  • The definition of forcible rape does not include rape that occurs when the victim is incapacitated when the incapacity is caused by someone other than the perpetrator – for example, a drugged hospital patient who took pain medication after surgery.

I plan to file legislation next year to fix all of these problems. Statutory rape should be considered a dangerous felony. Sex offenders shouldn’t be given slap-on-the-wrist 120 day treatment sentences. SIS and SES shouldn’t be allowed for statutory rape or sodomy. And the definition of rape should be updated to include incapacity. 

Legislature Overrides Nixon Veto on Pro-Life, Religious Liberties Bill

I was pleased yesterday to vote to override Governor Nixon’s veto of SB 749, a pro-life bill that protects the First Amendment rights of all Missourians. I’m also happy to report that a major part of the bill (I’d argue the most important part) was an amendment I sponsored which guarantees that no Missourian will ever be forced to pay for anyone else’s elective abortion. The amendment is on page 6, and declares that “an enrollee who is a member of a group health plan with coverage for elective abortions has the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions if such coverage is contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”  

Discussing Special Session on KWOS

I got a little heated this morning on KWOS talking about veto session – and why we’re here. It’s always tough to follow Leonard Steinman, but it was a good time as always. Today in the House, we’ll be taking up one or two bills in veto session. Without doubt, we will be taking up the religious liberties bill to attempt to override the Governor’s veto. I believe the bill will get 112 votes and we will override. My explanation and thoughts on that bill can be found here. It is still unknown whether there are enough votes to override Governor Nixon’s purely politically motivated veto of the tax fairness bill. 

Why Governor Nixon Should Sign the Religious Liberties Bill

Since our nation’s founding, America has been a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. The most important of those freedoms are enshrined in the First Amendment, which protects the rights of religion, speech, the press, protest, and petitioning government – in that order.

There’s a reason the First Amendment is first, and religion is the first of the First. Without the right of conscience – to worship (or not worship) as one sees fit – life is stripped of greater meaning. Religious beliefs go to a citizen’s very core. If government is allowed to rip those beliefs apart by compelling action against deeply-held, long-standing religious beliefs, it is allowed to eviscerate the individual.

This year, as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama ordered that all employers who provide insurance must provide their employees with access to contraceptives – even if the employer has a religious objection to such coverage. To protect the First Amendment rights of Missourians, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 749, which does three things. First, it requires insurers to inform their consumers whether their plan covers abortions or contraceptives. Second, thanks to an amendment I sponsored, it allows individuals to opt-out of coverage for elective abortions. No Missourian should be forced to pay for another’s abortion, and this provision ensures they won’t. Third, it clarifies that no Missourian will be discriminated against or penalized by Missouri government or private entities in our state for standing on religious conviction in deciding what health insurance to purchase for themselves or others.

SB 749 has gained attention from opponents who call it an anti-woman bill. One tactic has been to accuse the bill’s supporters of being against birth control. This could not be further from the truth. I, for one, think it’s better for a business to provide a health insurance plan that covers birth control (but not elective abortions or abortifacients). But I also believe in freedom of conscience. Government should not tread on the religious beliefs of citizens when it comes to actions that aren’t necessary to save the life of or protect another person from harm.

The other thing I noticed in the context of debate on this issue was the general misunderstanding of constitutional rights. I have heard it argued a few times that a person has a “right” to certain health care and that this “right” extends to employer-provided coverage. Constitutionally-speaking, a “right” is something that protects a person from the actions of government and government alone. A “right” does not put one class of citizens above another by permitting government to conscript employers to do things against their religious beliefs. A “right” does not pit citizen against citizen. Instead, a “right” acts as a shield against overreaching government. While it might be wise for employers to cover contraceptives, there is no right in the Constitution for any person to have anything provided by another person. Rights aren’t about policy outcomes. To argue otherwise is to define all “rights” right out of our Constitution. 

Governor Nixon should move beyond the rhetoric and review SB 749 in light of our nation’s dedication to religious liberty and the simple idea that one person should not be forced to foot the bill for another person’s elective abortion. Even if, like me, he does not have a religious objection to contraceptives, Governor Nixon should put the First Amendment above the short-term policy “benefit” of mandating health care coverage he believes employers should provide. And he should actually sign the bill, not just punt on the issue.

House Passes Conscience Protection Bill

The House passed legislation today to protect the moral, ethical, and religious beliefs of pro-life Missourians. Senate Bill 749, handled in the House by Rep. Sandy Crawford, includes an amendment I added that ensures pro-life Missourians are not forced by their employer to pay for the elective abortions of their co-workers. This is probably the most important bill we passed all year and I’m ecstatic that my amendment made it through the legislative wringer. 

House Sends Pro-Life Bill to Conference

The Missourinet reports on the pro-life bill the Missouri House sent to a conference committee yesterday. I placed an amendment on the bill to ensure that Missourians who have ethical, moral, or religious objections to abortion cannot be forced by their employer to subsidize the elective abortions of their co-workers.

Some audio from the debate in available here.