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William (Bill) O'Brien is a N.H. state representative from Mont Vernon. Formerly the Speaker of the N.H. House (2010-2012), O'Brien was re-elected to the position in November 2014.

House Votes Through Contraception Exemption

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Josh Rogers
/
NHPR

 The New Hampshire House voted to allow any employer with a religious objection to deny workers insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Adding an exemption to New Hampshire’s 12-year-old law requiring contraceptives be covered in all drug plans has become a priority for House Speaker William O'Brien. And his leadership team pushed the bill through over strong objection from Democrats and a gallery full of protesters.

To supporters, like Republican Jenn Coffey of Andover, the issue is about religious liberty, pure and simple. "It simply says your employer does not have to pay," Coffey said.  "It does not in any way get in between you and your doctor."

Critics say the proposal privileges the anti-contraception views of the Catholic Church, which helped draft the bill.

"This is not about religion," said Steve DeStefano, a Democrat from Bow. "This is about health insurance for everybody on a community basis."

The bill’s future in the state Senate is unclear. After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told some protestors he could vote against the bill. Gov. John Lynch says he opposes it, but has not threatened a veto. The 196-150 margin in the House was well shy of the margin needed for an override.