JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri’s College of the Ozarks has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would require its employee health plan to cover abortion services and certain types of contraception, including the morning-after pill.
Leaders of the Presbyterian liberal arts college located near Branson say the mandate violates the school’s institutional religious beliefs.
“The mandate chills the college's religious exercise by exposing the college to substantial fines for its religious beliefs and exercise of those beliefs,” the lawsuit states. “The mandate's required provision of insurance coverage for education and counseling concerning elective abortions and abortifacient drugs compels the college to speak in a manner contrary to its religious beliefs.”
The college is seeking an order that will protect it from enforcement of the requirement, as well as court costs.
The University of Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America and Evangelical-affiliated Wheaton College in Illinois have filed similar lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate. Last week, the craft store chain Hobby Lobby also filed a suit seeking religious protection from covering the morning-after pill.
Last week, Missouri lawmakers voted to overturn Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation that allows religious and moral exemptions to covering contraception in health insurance policies.
The override attempt – the only one the lawmakers pursued in their annual veto session – was pushed in response to the federal mandate on religiously affiliated institutions, including universities and hospitals.
The legislation would allow employers to choose not to cover contraception, abortion and sterilization if those services go against their religious or moral convictions.
Opponents had argued that it would limit access to birth control for thousands of Missouri women.
A lawsuit was filed just hours after the override attempt passed.
The Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women and a female firefighter claim in their suit that Missouri’s legislation discriminates by sex and religion and that it goes against federal law.