By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Missouri's Democratic Governor Jay Nixon on Thursday vetoed a bill that could have resulted in women being denied insurance coverage for contraception, in the latest battle over Catholic Church objections to providing birth control coverage as part of the new health care law.
Republican lawmakers in Missouri drafted the law in response to President Barack Obama's policy of requiring insurers to cover birth control for free as part of the new federal health care law, even if they work for a church or other employer who has a moral objection.
Catholic bishops, backed by many Republicans, have campaigned against the requirement, saying it is an unfair government intrusion on religious freedom. The Catholic Church's formal position is to oppose contraception, although most Catholic women do not follow church doctrine.
In vetoing the bill, Nixon noted that state law already allows employers or workers to opt out of contraceptive coverage based on moral or religious beliefs. But the proposed law would have enabled insurance companies to deny coverage even if the employer and employee wanted it, Nixon said.
"By doing so, the bill would shift authority to make decisions about access to contraceptive coverage away from Missouri women, families and employers - and put that power in the hands of insurance companies," Nixon said.
He said this would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
The bill had the support of groups opposed to abortion and from religious groups, but abortion rights advocates opposed it.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)