Missouri Sends Post-Viability Abortion Ban to Governor Nixon

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2011   |   3:43PM   |   Jefferson City, MO

The Missouri state legislature gave final approval to a bill that would ban abortions after the point of viability and sent it to pro-abortion Gov. Jay Nixon.

Should the bill become law, it  requires abortion practitioners to determine if the unborn child is viable and 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. The Senate  made a few last-minute changes making it so two doctors not affiliated with the abortion practitioner must certify a danger to the life of the mother before an abortion can be done.

Joe Ortwerth, the director of the Missouri Family Policy Council, told LifeNews.com he’s delighted the Missouri legislature approved the bill.

“We commend the members of the Missouri General Assembly for their principled and persistent commitment to safeguarding the sanctity of human life,” he told LifeNews.com today. “This bill sends a clear message to doctors with no conscience–Missouri has a no tolerance policy when it comes to the hideous practice of late-term abortions. Unscrupulous doctors who choose to exterminate defenseless viable unborn will now do so at great peril to their own livelihood.”

Pamela Sumners, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri opposed the bill as does the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

The House bill approved by the Senate included non-substantive changes that must now be concurred on by the House, a formality that will be concluded by the end of the day and then be sent to Nixon for his signature or veto.

“Missouri Right to Life applauds the Missouri House and Senate for their passage of HB 213 and SB 65.  Medical technology continues to improve the ability of a child born prematurely to live outside the mother’s womb,” Pam Fichter of Missouri Right to Life said on passages. “With advances in medical technology, children born prematurely are viable at increasingly earlier stages of development.”

“While abortion at any stage of development is an offense against human dignity, certainly we can all agree that subjecting viable 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 all the House and Senate members who supported this legislation,” concluded Fichter.

Senate President Pro Tem Robert Mayer, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said ensuring two doctors certify the abortion is necessary to ensure the law is not abused and abortions are done simply because the abortion practitioner believes so.

“You’re dealing here with an unborn human being someone that doesn’t have the ability to communicate and understand what’s going on,” Mayer said.

Under the proposed law, no abortion could be performed after viability unless the mother’s life was endangered by a “physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury,” or when continuation of the pregnancy would create a serious risk of “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

No physician could proceed with performing an abortion on a viable unborn child unless they obtained the agreement of a second physician that the abortion was necessary to preserve the life of the mother, or that continuation of the pregnancy would pose severe health risks to the pregnant woman.  The second physician would have to be familiar with accepted obstetrical and neonatal standards of practice, and could not have any legal or financial affiliation or relationship with the doctor performing the abortion.

Both physicians would be required to document the reasons that the late-term abortion is medically necessary.   They would then be required to report those reasons to the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, the state agency that licenses and regulates physicians.  A doctor found guilty of  performing an illegal late-term abortion would be imprisoned for a term of not less than one year, fined not less than $10,000, and would have his license to practice medicine revoked.   A hospital or ambulatory surgical center that knowingly allows a late-term abortion to be performed on its premises would be subject to suspension or revocation of its license.

Oertwerth says one of the reasons for the bill is to narrow considerably the ambiguous “health of the mother” exception for post-viability abortions currently contained in Missouri statutes.  As a result of the Doe v. Bolton case handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 on the same day as the Roe v. Wade decision, the health of the mother provision has authorized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy.  The Supreme Court interpreted “health of the mother” to include all factors, including claims of mental and emotional distress, or an inability or unwillingness to raise a child.

In more recent decisions, however, the Supreme Court has reiterated that government has an important and legitimate interest in the life of the unborn child which becomes “compelling” at viability, the group says. In the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992, the Supreme Court stated that “viability…is the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb, so that the existence of the second life can, in reason and all fairness, be the object of state protection that now overrides the rights of the woman.”  The High Court went further to say that “a woman who fails to act before viability has consented to the state’s intervention on behalf of the developing child.”

In the Carhart v. Gonzalez decision of 2007 that upheld state bans on partial-birth abortion, the Supreme Court acknowledged that its previous precedents had “undervalued the state’s interest in potential life.”  The Court flatly stated that laws restricting late-term abortions would be constitutional so long as they did not subject women to “significant health risks.

The state health department says 6,881 abortions took place in Missouri in 2009.

ACTION: Contact Governor Nixon at https://governor.mo.gov and urge him to sign the bill into law.