Missouri Legislators Seek Restrictions on Late-Term Abortions

State   |   Joe Oertwerth   |   Jan 10, 2011   |   7:20PM   |   Jefferson City, MO

Two leaders in the Missouri Legislature are sponsoring bills this session which would place strict limits on the performance of late-term abortions in Missouri.

Senator Rob Mayer, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and Representative Tim Jones, the Majority Leader in the Missouri House, have each introduced legislation which would regulate post-viability abortions.

Under the proposals, abortions would be prohibited when the unborn child is viable except when the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the mother or when continuation of the pregnancy would pose a significant health risk to the mother.  The bills establish specific definitions for the life and health exceptions for late-term abortions.

Current Missouri law states that “no abortion of a viable unborn child shall be performed unless necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.”  Unfortunately, the law, adopted by the Missouri General Assembly in 1974, failed to define the term “health.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Doe v Bolton which was issued the prior year, determined that the “health” of the mother includes “all factors” including “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.”  The result is that the United States has abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy

The state of the law in America today is that a woman can obtain an abortion prior to viability for no reason, and after viability for any reason at all.   In fact, the United States has the most liberal abortion laws in the world.  Most countries prohibit the performance of abortions by the third trimester of pregnancy.

In recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated it may be ready to re-evaluate its wide-open definition of “health” in Doe v. Bolton.  In the 2007 Gonzalez v Carhart decision upholding bans on partial-birth abortion, the Supreme Court stated that “court precedents after Roe had undervalued the state’s interest in potential life.”  The Court further suggested that restrictions on late-term abortions would be permissible unless they “subjected women to significant health risks.”

The new legislation proposed by Senator Mayer and Representative Jones seeks to define the nature of significant health risks.  The bill states that an abortion may be performed after viability only when “continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”  The “life of the mother” exception applies in circumstances when “the life of the pregnant woman…is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

While late-term abortions constitute a small percentage of abortions in Missouri and other states, they nonetheless continue to occur, primarily in the hospital setting, and often for non-therapeutic reasons.  Many citizens and lawmakers are under the false impression that partial-birth abortion laws prohibited late-term abortions, but those laws merely prohibit that abortion procedure.  Abortionists now typically perform late-term abortions by injecting the unborn child with a toxic substance that stops the baby’s heart, and then proceed to deliver a dead preborn child.

Abortionists in Missouri would no longer be able to make unilateral decisions to destroy the life of a healthy viable unborn child under the provisions of the new legislation.  The abortionist would have to obtain the agreement of a second unaffiliated physician with obstetrical or neonatal experience who concurs that the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother or would result in significant health risks.

The Midwest has a sorry history of being a hub for late-term abortion activity.  George Tiller performed numerous abortions on viable unborn children at his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, before he was murdered by a gunman.  Leroy Carhart has operated a late-term abortion business out of Bellevue, Nebraska.  He recently announced he was leaving that state because of a new law restricting late-term abortions, and was planning to open new clinics in Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland.  Missouri doesn’t need Carhart deciding to set up shop here because of our lax laws on late-term abortion.

We ask that you please be praying for Senator Mayer and Representative Jones and their colleagues as they debate this life-saving legislation.  Senator Mayer was the sponsor of Missouri’s new ultrasound informed consent law enacted by the General Assembly last year.  Despite his new position as the chief officer of the Missouri Senate, he wanted to continue to take a lead role in protecting innocent human life by sponsoring this bill.

Representative Jones has been a strong ally for the pro-life movement, and despite his new role as Majority Floor Leader in the Missouri House, he chose to make this legislation a personal priority, and sponsor the bill himself.  House Speaker Steve Tilley has expressed strong support for the proposal, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey is a co-sponsor of Senator Mayer’s bill.

The Missouri Family Policy Council originated and developed this legislation in consultation with Americans United for Life.  We are most grateful for their counsel and assistance.  You can read a copy of the text of the bill and a summary of the bill by clicking this link:
Late-Term Abortion Bill

It is time for Missouri to put an end to the gruesome and grisly business of late-term abortions.  Surveys show that more than 80 percent of the public agrees that this barbaric practice needs to come to an end.