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Mo. State Rep. Going To Court To Opt Out Of ‘Abortion-Inducing Drugs’ Coverage

Missouri State House of Representatives

 A lawsuit filed on behalf of a Missouri state representative is aimed at changing a mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that he says violates his religious rights.

Paul Wieland, a Republican House member from Imperial, says he and his wife are no longer able to opt out of coverage for “abortion-inducing drugs” under a group health care plan provided for legislators.

He says that option has been removed because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Wieland, who recently announced his bid for state Senate, says as a lifelong Catholic an inability to opt out of having his premium dollars go toward things like contraception violates his religious freedom.

“Can the government come in and tell you how to raise your children and you, your religion doesn’t matter?” Weiland says. “I think if we’ve come to that point in this country then we’ve gone way to far.”    

The lawsuit names U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris as defendants.

A regional representative for the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the lawsuit.   

Associate Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, Elizabeth Sepper, doesn’t make much of the argument laid out in the lawsuit.      

“If we accept this lawsuit we have to accept the notion that young people could opt out of hip replacement surgeries, women might opt out of prostate exams, and so on and so-forth until insurance doesn’t exist anymore,” Sepper says. 

The Wielands' attorney, Tim Belz, says that’s a slippery slope argument that doesn’t hold true, the option has been there in the past without problems and should be there in the future to protect religious freedoms.

Belz says the lawsuit should not be interpreted as an attempt to chew away at the legal underpinnings of the ACA.

“All we’re trying to do here is protect the conscience rights of our clients,” Belz says.

The legal fees are being covered by the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm based in Chicago.  

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd

Copyright 2013 St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Lloyd grew up north of Kansas City and holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Prior to joining St. Louis Public Radio, he launched digital reporting efforts for Harvest Public Media, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting funded collaboration between Midwestern NPR member stations that focuses on agriculture and food issues. His stories have aired on a variety of stations and shows including Morning Edition, Marketplace, KCUR, KPR, IPR, NET, WFIU. He won regional Edward R Murrow Awards in 2013 for Writing, Hard News and was part of the reporting team that won for Continuing Coverage. In 2010 he received the national Debakey Journalism Award and in 2009 he won a Missouri Press Association award for Best News Feature.
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