JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri health care workers could refuse to participate in procedures and research that run afoul of their religious, moral or ethical beliefs under legislation given first-round approval Monday by the House.

Physicians, nurses, medical researchers, and certain others involved in health care could not be discriminated against for refusing. Objections could be raised for specified medical procedures and research, including abortion, sterilization that is not medically necessary, assisted reproduction, human embryonic stem-cell research and contraception. Health care institutions such as hospitals, clinics and medical or nursing schools also could refuse to perform procedures or conduct research with which it has moral objections.

House Speaker Tim Jones, who is sponsoring the legislation, said conscience rights are a bedrock principle that has been applied for a long time in the U.S. He said the legislation protects workers' rights and claimed support from both political parties and men and women.

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