birth control

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The state Senate Health Policy Committee has approved a measure that allows health care providers and insurance companies to deny patients medical treatments if they have a moral objection.

Committee approval puts the bill in line for a vote by the full Senate.

Republican state Senator John Moolenaar says there is an exception in the bill if a patient faces a medical emergency.

“If there was an emergency, health care services would be provided regardless of violations of conscience. In the case of a specific person, no person would be denied services based on personal characteristics.”

Moolenar says that ensures health care providers cannot discriminate against particular patients.

State Senator Rebekuh Warren is a Democrat who sits on the Senate Health Policy Committee.

She says patients facing a health crisis could still be denied services in some cases. She says that’s why she voted against the bill.

“This would allow health insurance payers, whole healthcare systems, hospital systems, doctors’ offices, medical schools, educational institutions to cloak themselves in a conscientious objection and refuse to give treatment, even emergency treatment, to people who need care.”

A health care professional who refuses to offer a service would have to refer patients to to a provider who does offer the treatment. The full state Senate could vote on the measure when it returns from a two-week spring break. 

Michigan already allows health professionals to refuse to provide abortions.

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The Michigan Catholic Conference has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block an Obama administration rule that requires employer health plans to offer contraception coverage. The Catholic church opposes birth control.

The Catholic Conference offers health coverage to about 10,000 employees and their dependents at Catholic parishes, schools and charities across the state.

Paul Long is the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference.

“Inasmuch we provide this benefit, this mandate would be very restrictive upon us," Long said. "We felt that we needed to act in a way that was in keeping with who we are and being able to continue to provide the plan that we’ve always provided.”

The lawsuit says the contraception requirement violates the church’s religious freedom. It was filed at a federal court in Ohio. Franciscan University of Steubenville-Ohio is also part of the lawsuit.

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Michigan and six other states are asking a federal judge to block an Obama administration mandate that requires birth control coverage for employees of religious-affiliated organizations.

The lawsuit filed at a U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska alleges that the new rule violates the First Amendment rights of groups such as the Roman Catholic church that object to the use of contraceptives.

The rule announced as part of the federal health care law has come under fire not only from Catholic bishops but also the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. In response to this criticism, Obama administration officials have said they will shift the requirement from the employers to health insurers themselves.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says the proposed change still fails to address their concerns.

Joining the lawsuit are Nebraska, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina.