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Mar 21 2013

Missouri Anti-Contraception Law Struck Down

After the Obama administration issued a rule that insurance companies are required to provide a rider that covers contraception in all health insurance policies, even if the group policy taken out by private companies does not include it, many states tried to pass laws overriding that requirement. A federal judge has struck down one such law in Missouri, saying that federal law takes precedence.

A federal judge has struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control coverage because it conflicts with an insurance requirement under President Barrack Obama’s health care law.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig cites a provision in the U.S. Constitution declaring that federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws. But Fleissig emphasized that she was taking no position on the merits of the Obama administration policy, which requires insurers to cover contraception at no additional cost to women…

The Missouri law requires insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers assert that the use of birth control violates their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs.” The state’s Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last September to enact the law, which appeared to be the first in the nation to directly rebut the Obama administration’s contraception policy…

In her ruling, Fleissig wrote that the state law “is in conflict with, and pre-empted by, existing federal law” and “could force health insurers to risk fines and penalties by choosing between compliance with state or federal law.”

The judge noted that the federal law includes penalties of $100 per day per employee and an annual tax surcharge of $2,000 per employee for violations of its provisions. The state insurance department already issued orders seeking civil penalties against two insurers for not offering plans excluding contraception coverage as required by the Missouri law.

The ruling “clears up what law they have to write the policies under, and that’s all we were asking,” said Brent Butler, the government affairs director for the Missouri Insurance Coalition, an industry trade group that was one of the plaintiffs.

This is a rather obvious ruling. If federal penalizes an insurance company for not including contraception coverage but state law penalizes them for including it, those companies face an impossible choice. But since this is undeniably a matter of interstate commerce, Congress has constitutional authority and the Supremacy Clause overrides conflicting state laws.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Synfandel

    And none of the Missouri legislators saw that the law couldn’t stand? Don’t they have a committee process that checks these things before a bill is enacted?

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    A terrible, dark day in American history. There goes the First Amendment. Now the government can officially crush your right to Free Exercise of Religion by giving other people contraception coverage.

  3. 3
    anubisprime

    OP

    Fleissig emphasized that she was taking no position on the merits of the Obama administration policy

    A touch of not so subtle judicial ass covering from the inevitable theistic pyroclastic flow.

    Surely it means that if Federal law is superior to State law, and if that is the constitutions verdict…there is not a state that can enforce this nonsense then?
    This is a very important ruling it seems to have scuppered the dimwads jeebus drool mid splutter!

    No wonder she is diving for judicial cover…surprised if they do not put out an xtian jihad on her!

  4. 4
    Wes

    And none of the Missouri legislators saw that the law couldn’t stand? Don’t they have a committee process that checks these things before a bill is enacted?

    I’m sure that most of the legislators who passed this law knew damn well it would never withstand a challenge in court. You can’t write a state law that says “This federal law doesn’t apply.” Our whole system would collapse if that were allowed. (That’s also why states can legalize marijuana, but can’t stop the feds from going in and busting people for it anyways. I think it’s great that Colorado legalized weed, but there won’t be true legalization until Congress abolishes the laws against it.)

    They passed this law to pander to their base, not to actually accomplish anything from a legal standpoint. Now they can go tell the mouth-breathers and busybodies who vote for them that they stood up for God’s right to force women to have unwanted pregnancies. I doubt they ever had any other goal in mind.

  5. 5
    Randomfactor

    Don’t they have a committee process that checks these things before a bill is enacted?

    What would be the use in that? They’d just have to explain it to the rubes back home.

  6. 6
    d.c.wilson

    Synfandel:

    Most of the probably knew it wouldn’t stand, but now they can go back to their supporters and say that they tried to protect Baby Jesus from the evils of Obamacare, but were blocked by “activist judges”, so please give more money to the GOP so that we can get a republican president who will appoint god-fearing judges who will uphold biblical principles like it says in the Constitution.

    Oh, and the taxpayers’ money that was used to defend this doomed-from-the-start law was totally worth it.

  7. 7
    cptdoom

    The Missouri law requires insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers assert that the use of birth control violates their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs.”

    But this begs the question, why just stop at contraception? After all, certain chemotherapeutics can cause spontaneous abortions (aka “miscarriages”); why shouldn’t employers with “pro-life” beliefs be able to exclude those from coverage?

  8. 8
    baal

    State legislatures do not check or consider constitutionality at the bill drafting stage. Concerned members may vote against the bill and enacted law doesn’t really have its meaning set until there have been court challenges. One of the several challenges is the constitutionality of the law.

    The law makers themselves are decidedly unconcerned about all that (it’s not a basis used in political attack during campaigns).

  9. 9
    Doug Little

    Don’t they have a committee process that checks these things before a bill is enacted?

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. I thought that the process was similar to slinging shit at a wall to see what sticks.

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