JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A debate in the Missouri Capitol over birth control grew Tuesday as a panel of lawmakers endorsed legislation that would allow any employer to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception if doing so goes against the employer’s religious beliefs.

The legislation, which would allow employers to refuse to provide coverage for birth control, abortions or sterilization procedures, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee on a 6-2 vote along party lines.

The vote sends the bill to the full Senate and comes a few weeks after the Obama administration tried to get employers such Catholic hospitals to provide free coverage of birth control as part of their health insurance plans. After pushback from some religious groups, the administration said last week that such coverage would be provided by insurance companies instead, a move the administration said was a sort of compromise on the issue.

The federal rule would only apply to churches and religiously-affiliated employers. The Missouri bill would go farther, allowing any employer to refuse to provide coverage for the medical services if the services violate the employer’s beliefs. It does not call for insurance companies to provide the coverage instead.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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