Missouri Bill Would Help Pregnant Moms and Unborn Children

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri Bill Would Help Pregnant Moms and Unborn Children

by Karla Dial
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
February 4, 2004

Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — A Missouri legislator hopes to make the Show Me State the seventh in the nation to offer unborn children to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The longstanding program offers medical insurance to children of low-income families who might otherwise be forced to do without. But in September 2002, the Bush administration issued a final regulation that clears the way for states to allow coverage for children "from conception to 19 years of age."

Rep. Matt Muckler (D-Ferguson) introduced a bill in the Missouri Legislature Jan. 29 to reflect that change on the state level; Illinois, Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Washington already have similar programs in place.

"We just tacked in ‘including unborn children,’" to the existing statute, Muckler told LifeNews.com. "The federal government provided a basis for states to participate in this program. States have to pass the legislation to participate, which is what I’m doing. If the government is going to be involved in any part of our lives, it should be in protecting life."

If passed, Muckler’s bill, H.B. 1307,would tap $700,000 from the state’s general revenue coffers to give expectant mothers good prenatal care — a key element to reducing abortions among low-income women, he said. And though that figure is far lower than his initial estimates of $3 million to $4 million, he said it’s given some of his colleagues pause.

"I had 15 people who had signed onto the bill but then withdrew their support when they realized it was going to cost some money," he said. "But if we’re going to be pro-life, we’ll have to put our money where our mouth is. Our number one objective has to be life. And here’s a very cost-effective, to-the-point program that will do that."

Nonetheless, Muckler expected the bill to get broad bipartisan support should it reach the House floor; Rep. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) is a major cosponsor.

Patty Skain, executive director of Missouri Right to Life, told LifeNews.com her organization had not yet had a chance to read the bill. But Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, worked with pro-life legislators to get the ball rolling.

"We gave a number of legislators the idea in a meeting, and Muckler picked it up and ran with it," he said. "We did provide some interesting background along the way. We found out that this (idea of adding unborn children to the program) was originally proposed in Congress by one of our Missouri senators, Kit Bond. So we felt it should happen here in Missouri."

H.B. 1307 is not yet scheduled for a committee hearing. But, Weber said, "It’s an existing program and the mechanisms are in place to make it work right away, so we should get it up and running in short order if the Legislature makes this change."

Since the Bush administration issued the final rule in 2002, abortion advocates have decried it as another means of awarding personhood to the unborn and undermining Roe v. Wade. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson has said it’s the best way to provide good prenatal care to women who otherwise could not afford it.

Six other states have included unborn children under the CHIP plan since the Bush administration changed administrative rules allowing them to do so, incuding Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Rhode Island have already extended their CHIP programs to include unborn children and help pregnant moms.