The Missouri House has given initial approval to a bill that proponents say would protect alternatives to abortion agencies and their employees’ rights to assembly, religious practices, and speech.
It targets a St. Louis ordinance that the bill’s opponents say protects from discrimination women who have had abortions, use contraceptives or artificial insemination, or have become pregnant out of wedlock.
The sponsor of House Bill 174, Representative Tila Hubrecht (R-Dexter), said that ordinance penalizes agencies that refuse to hire a woman who would counsel a woman to have an abortion or refer a woman to get an abortion.
“This ordinance could also force private property owners to rent space to abortion facilities or to doctors who perform abortions, and force private employers to include abortion coverage in employee health plans,” said Hubrecht.
Hubrecht said without her bill becoming law, the St. Louis ordinance and its like could, “interfere with the mission of alternatives-to-abortion agencies and persons not affiliated with a religious organization, and obstruct their conscience rights.”
St. Louis Democrat Stacey Newman said by nullifying the ordinance, the legislature would be allowing discrimination.
“Are you in favor of firing a woman just because she’s pregnant? That’s what the ordinance prevents. Are you in favor of terminating a lease just because a woman is pregnant? Again, that’s what the ordinance prevents. St. Louis Ordinance 70459 prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy including childbirth, and as you would suspect, these are private decisions that are none of the employee’s or a landlord’s business,” said Newman.
Newman said the bill would also protect those agencies’ dissemination of “medically inaccurate” information to women, aimed at discouraging them from having an abortion or using contraception.
“You’re saying as a government body you have the right, then, to go and interfere in other people’s personal, private health decisions and even allow them to be getting inaccurate medical care,” said Newman.
Another vote in favor of HB 174 would send it to the state Senate.