Missouri House Latest to Pass Post-Viability Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2011   |   6:26PM   |   Jefferson City, MO

The Missouri House of Representatives is the latest to pass legislation that would ban abortions after the point of viability.

Today, the chamber approved HB 213, the Late-Term Abortions sponsored by Rep. Tim Jones — a measure that prohibits abortions on unborn children after viability.

The legislation requires abortion practitioners to determine if the unborn child is viable and the bill also changes the Missouri definition of viability to include human life that can be “sustained” outside of the womb with or without life support as opposed to life that can be “continued indefinitely.” If the baby is determined to not be viable the abortion practitioner would have to issue a report to the state health department indicating so and explaining why.

A second licensed physician would have to sign off on the abortion to ensure state law was followed at the time of the abortion. Any abortion practitioner violating the law could face a year in prison and a three year suspension of his medical license.

The state House voted for the bill on a bipartisan 119-38 margin, much to the delight of Missouri Right to Life, and Pam Fichter, the president of the group, told LifeNews.com she “applauds the Missouri House of Representatives for their timely passage of HB 213.”

“Scientific evidence tells us that an unborn baby at 20 weeks of age has all body systems working, reacts to stimuli, can hear noises outside the womb and recognizes her mother’s voice.  Testimony from the medical community tells us that unborn children of this age are able to feel pain,” she said.

“While abortion at any stage of development is an offense against human dignity, certainly we can all agree that subjecting unborn children to the horrible pain of abortion is unacceptable in a civilized society.  Unborn Children are the most vulnerable members of the human family and cannot speak for themselves.  Our shared humanity compels us to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we are grateful to Rep. Jones and all the Democrats and Republicans who supported this legislation” concluded Fichter.

The Missouri Family Policy Council is the primary author of the legislation, in consultation with Americans United for Life.
The Senate version of this bill, SB 65, sponsored by President Pro Tem Senator Robert Mayer, passed out of the Senate General Laws Committee on March 8 and is awaiting consideration in the full Senate.

Pamela Sumners, executive director of the pro-abortion group NARAL opposed the bill in committee while Samuel Lee, founder of the pro-life group Campaign Life Missouri, supported it.

The Missouri state health department shows about 5 percent of the 10,800 abortions done in Missouri were done after 17 weeks of pregnancy and 469 babies lost their lives to abortions done after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

The science behind the concept of fetal pain — which some pro-life groups are using to promote the bill — is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it.

He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen  were the top researchers to point to fetal pain decades ago. Collins, before his death, was Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois and author of Principles of Anesthesiology, one of the leading medical texts on the control of pain.

“The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb,” they wrote.

“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.  [related]

With Zielinski and his colleagues the first to provide the scientific basis for the concept of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has provided further research to substantiate their work.

“The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies,” explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.

Note: Some changes have been made to this article to make it more clear it bans abortions after viability and not just based on fetal pain.