Missouri Senate Approves Bill on Forced Abortions, But Causes Pro-Lifers Problems
by Steven Ertelt
May 14, 2009
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — The Missouri state Senate today approved a bill that would seemingly help women avoid forced abortions, though the measure is not as strong as one the House passed. The compromise bill removed the ban on forced or coerced abortions and replaced it with an informed consent requirement.
However, the bill is causing headaches for pro-life advocates, who are calling for it to be defeated or changed.
The bill the Senate signed off on would include information telling women that they can’t be pressured or forced into having an abortion in the list of information they receive under the Missouri informed consent statute.
That’s the section allowing them to receive information on abortion’s risks and alternatives.
The Missouri House voted 115 to 43 for the original bills HB 46 and HB 434 in March, but the Senate, as happened last year, stalled on the bill.
Over the objections of pro-abortion Democrats such as Joan Bray of University City and Jolie Justus of Kansas City, the Senate approved the bill to stop pressured abortions 25-7 and now the bill goes to the state House for its consideration.
If the House approves the Senate version, which it is expected to do, it will then go to pro-abortion Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature or veto.
But pro-life groups hope changes are made because the bill makes problematic changes to the state’s informed consent law.
Pam Fichter, the president of Missouri Right to Life, told LifeNews.com that the current bill, if it becomes law, will "endanger Missouri women seeking abortions."
The Senate bill "creates a two-tiered system of enforcement based on how frequently an abortion clinic does abortions," Fichter explains.
"Abortion clinics that perform abortions no more than one-day-a-week (supposedly only the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo.) are exempt from the new informed consent provisions offering an ultrasound, fetal development information, abortion alternatives, etc. for three years," she said.
"But such one-day-a-week clinics must (supposedly) comply with the old, 2003 womens right to know law," Fichter said. "Clinics that perform abortions more than one-day-a-week (one in Kansas City and two in St. Louis) will be exempt from the 2003 law while (supposedly) complying with the new law."
Fichter says this uneven enforcement will come up in court and cause even more problems.
"The abortion industry in Missouri will, no doubt, challenge the new law in court. A temporary injunction will be granted, which in effect will suspend not only the new law until the court case is settled but will also suspend the informed consent provisions and reflection period in the current law," she said.
Because legal battles take years to work their way out, Fichter says the bill could result in overturning the informed consent statute for years.
"The result of this will be no informed consent or 24-hour reflection period in Missouri for many years to come," she explained.
Missouri Right to Life and other pro-life advocates in the state are calling on the legislature to pass the original HCS HB 46 & 434. They hope legislators assigned to the conference committee that will decide the final version of the bill will fix the problems.
In an email to LifeNews.com, Missourians United for Life said Nixon has not been faced with pro-life legislation during his term as governor and MUL president Ed Martin hopes the governor is required to weigh in on the forced abortion ban with a signature or veto.
The bill also allows women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child 24 hours prior to the performance of an abortion. When used in pregnancy centers, more than 80 percent of women decide to keep their baby instead of having an abortion after seeing the humanity of their unborn child in the ultrasound.
Sen. Rob Mayer, a Republican, sponsored the Senate version of the stronger House-approved bill, but he went along with the weaker version knowing it had the votes to move forward.
This legislation is intended to effectively protect unborn children and women from being wounded for life," he said, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Democratic senators Bray, Justus, Jeff Smith, Rita Days, Yvonne Wilson, Robin Wright-Jones all voted no along with Republican state senator Dan Clemens, of Marshfield.
The original bill made it a further crime to engage in domestic violence or harassment to force a woman into having an abortion.
Anyone found guilty would face varying degrees of criminal penalties depending on the act the defendant engaged in, ranging from assault to stalking to threats against the pregnant mother.
The bill also would have found abortion practitioners guilty of a class C felony if they engage in an abortion on a woman they know to have been pressured into having an abortion. The idea is to get abortion centers to engage in better screening to help such women find abortion alternatives.
Last year, the state House approved a similar bill on a 113-33 third reading vote.
At the time, Missouri Right to Life told LifeNews.com the anti-coercion bill was needed because of a recent case of a forced abortion.
According to the group, a 16 year-old girl was the victim of an attempted coerced abortion by her mother and aunt. The three were at the Planned Parenthood abortion center when the teen apparently called police by dialing 911 on her cell phone.
"The police went into the facility and arrested the aunt. The mother then realized that it wasn’t so simple to force her will upon her daughter," the group said. "How many more times might this be happening across the state of Missouri?"
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