Missouri State House Backs Parental Abortion Lawsuit Bill
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
May 1, 2004
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — The Missouri House has approved a bill which backers say will help to provide greater protection for teenagers who are pressured into having abortions. The legislation would permit lawsuits against anyone who helps a minor circumvent the state’s parental consent law.
"This is to protect the girls," Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) said during House debate on the measure.
Adults have been known to pressure Missouri teenagers to get abortions by coercing them into going to Illinois, which does not require parental consent for abortions. One abortion center on the Illinois side of the Missouri border from St. Louis frequently advertises in Missouri publication for abortions without parental involvement.
Legislators say St. Louis teens routinely travel to the other side of the city to have their unborn children aborted.
According to Cunningham, the bill resulted from the story of one mother who could not prevent her teenage daughter from getting an abortion at the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois.
"Thinking about it makes me want to cry," Cunningham said.
Under the legislation, someone who helps a minor obtain an abortion without parental consent could face a lawsuit from the teenager, her parents, or guardians. Litigants could sue for emotional injuries, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Under the bill, abortionists could use a "medical emergency" as a legal defense to perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent. "Medical emergency" would be defined as an abortion practitioner’s good faith judgment that an abortion is necessary to avoid the death or serious injury of a pregnant woman.
However, the bill would also require abortionists to have obstetrical or gynecological privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed.
That second provision is designed to crack down on "circuit riders," abortion practitioners who travel around Missouri to perform abortions. Abortionists who break the law could be charged with a felony, which could result in a prison term of anywhere from five to 15 years.
The bill could also make abortion centers more accountable to government officials. Under the legislation, the centers would be classified as "ambulatory surgical centers," making them subject to inspection by the state Department of Health and Senior Services.