Missouri House Begins Debate on Bill to Help Women, Ban Coerced Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 4, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri House Begins Debate on Bill to Help Women, Ban Coerced Abortions

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 4
, 2009

Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — The Missouri state House began a debate on Tuesday on a bill that would ban forced or coerced abortions in the state. House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, a Republican, is behind the bill and he notes that a high number of women say they felt pressured into having an abortion.

House Bill 434 makes 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 finds 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.

However, abortion advocates are against the bill to stop coercing women into an abortion they may not otherwise want.

Rep. Sara Lampe, a Springfield Democrat, said she thinks the bill will criminalize the parents of teenagers who are victims of rape for suggesting that they have an abortion.

She asked the legislature to include an exception for rape victims.

Pratt, according to a News-Leader report, responded that his bill was "specifically designed" to help victims of sexual abuse by requiring abortion practitioners to explain that they can find alternatives if they feel pressured into having an abortion.

"I can’t imagine in a million years why we would want to hide information from victims of rape or incest," Pratt said. "We want to say everyone else can be free of coercion, but if you are a victim of rape or incest, we want you as a state to be coerced to have an abortion. That is ridiculous."

The House did not vote on either Lampe’s amendment or the bill and will continue the debate and possibly have a vote on the measure today.

Last year, the state House approved a similar bill on a 113-33 third reading vote.

Kellie Rohrbaugh, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri, said her group opposed the bill to help women.

Pam Fichter, the president of Missouri Right to Life, responded to the attacks on the bill from Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates at that time.

"It’s difficult to understand how anyone could oppose legislation that allows a pregnant woman to see her baby’s heartbeat or to learn about her unborn child’s development," she said. "And certainly no one supports the outrage of coerced abortions."

"Missouri citizens would be well served if the Missouri Senate, who will now take up this bill, supports informed choices and protection for women by passing this legislation," she said.

Missouri Right to Life told LifeNews.com the 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?"

Related web sites:
Missouri Right to Life – https://www.missourilife.org

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