Mis­souri passes abor­tion ban bill

Leg­is­la­tion pro­hibits pro­ce­dure af­ter eight weeks of preg­nancy.

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUM­MER BAL­LEN­TINE

JEF­FER­SON CITY, Mo. — Mis­souri’s Repub­li­can-led House on Fri­day passed sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion de­signed to survive court chal­lenges, which would ban abor­tions at eight weeks of preg­nancy.

If en­acted, the ban would be among the most re­stric­tive in the U.S. It in­cludes ex­cep­tions for med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, but not for preg­nan­cies caused by rape or in­cest. Doc­tors would face five to 15 years in prison for vi­o­lat­ing

the eight-week cut­off. Women who re­ceive abor­tions wouldn’t be pros­e­cuted.

Repub­li­can Gov. Mike Par­son pledged to sign the bill, but it’s un­clear when he’ll take action. When pressed on the lack of ex­cep­tions for

rape or in­cest, he told re­porters that “all life has value.”

“I’m go­ing to stand up for the peo­ple that don’t have a voice,” Par­son said. “Ev­ery­body should have a right to life.”

The Mis­souri leg­is­la­tion comes af­ter Alabama’s gover­nor signed a bill Wed­nes­day mak­ing per­form­ing an abor­tion a felony in nearly all cases.

‘Made to with­stand chal­lenges’

Sup­port­ers say the Alabama bill is meant to con­flict with the 1973 Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion that le­gal­ized abor­tion na­tion­ally in hopes of spark­ing a court case that might prompt the cur­rent panel of more con­ser­va­tive jus­tices to re­visit abor­tion rights.

Mis­souri Repub­li­cans are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

GOP Rep. Nick Schroer said his leg­is­la­tion is “made to with­stand ju­di­cial chal­lenges and not cause them.”

“While oth­ers are ze­ro­ing in on ways to over­turn Roe v. Wade and nav­i­gate the courts as quickly as pos­si­ble, that is not our goal,” Schroer said. “How­ever, if and when that fight comes we will be fully ready. This leg­is­la­tion has one goal, and that goal is to save lives.”

Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights CEO Nancy Northup called the mea­sure “un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

“Al­most 50 years of core pro­tec­tions for women’s re­pro­duc­tive de­ci­sion­mak­ing have been up­held by the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said in a state­ment. “Mis­souri and Alabama’s re­cent crim­i­nal abor­tion bans and all other

af­fronts to Roe v. Wade, will be chal­lenged and blocked ac­cord­ing to prece­dent and set­tled law.”

Ken­tucky, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Ge­or­gia also have approved bans on abor­tion once fe­tal car­diac ac­tiv­ity can be de­tected, which can oc­cur in about the sixth week of preg­nancy. Some of those laws al­ready have been chal­lenged in court, and sim­i­lar re­stric­tions in North Dakota and Iowa pre­vi­ously were struck down by judges.

Mis­souri’s bill also in­cludes an out­right ban on abor­tions ex­cept in cases of med­i­cal emer­gen­cies. But un­like Alabama’s, it would kick in only if Roe v. Wade is over­turned.

If courts don’t al­low Mis­souri’s pro­posed eight-week ban to take ef­fect, the bill in­cludes a ladder of less­re­stric­tive time lim­its that would pro­hibit abor­tions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or preg­nancy.

“Laun­dry bleach, acid, bit­ter con­coc­tion, knit­ting nee­dles, bi­cy­cle spokes, ball­point pens, jump­ing from the top of the stairs or the roof,” Demo­cratic Rep. Sarah Un­sicker told col­leagues on the House floor. “These are ways that women around the world who don’t have ac­cess to le­gal abor­tions per­form their own.”

Clinic re­ac­tions

Clin­i­cians re­acted with dis­gust to the pas­sage of the bill.

“Ob-gyns and other women’s health care providers should not be threat­ened with crim­i­nal penal­ties for de­liv­er­ing evidence based, nec­es­sary health care,” the Mis­souri Sec­tion of the Amer­i­can College of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists said in an emailed state­ment.

The bill “would force clin­i­cians to de­cide be­tween their patient’s needs and fac­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings. All clin­i­cians must be able to prac­tice medicine that is in­formed by their years of med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence, and the avail­able evidence, freely and with­out threat of crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment,” the group said.

The Hope Clinic for Women, which per­forms abor­tions in Gran­ite City, Illi­nois, just across the river from St. Louis, noted it al­ready sees Mis­souri pa­tients on a daily ba­sis.

“Our doors re­main open for any patient who needs abor­tion care,” Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dr. Erin King said in a state­ment.

Abor­tion-rights sup­port­ers in the House chanted, “when you lie, peo­ple die” and “women’s rights are hu­man rights” dur­ing de­bate on the mea­sure be­fore be­ing es­corted from the cham­ber. Out­side, they shouted “shame, shame, shame” af­ter law­mak­ers voted 110-44 to pass it.

Sev­eral women dressed as char­ac­ters from the “The Hand­maid’s Tale” watched silently. The Mar­garet At­wood book and sub­se­quent Hulu TV se­ries de­picts a dystopian fu­ture where fer­tile women are forced to breed.

Sup­port for bill

A hand­ful of abor­tion op­po­nents protested out­side the Planned Par­ent­hood clinic in St. Louis on Fri­day. Among them was 21-year-old Teresa Pet­tis, a Catholic who is five months’ preg­nant with her first child.

She said she sup­ports the bill even though it out­laws abor­tions for women who have been raped.

“Hon­estly, I don’t think it’s right to pun­ish the child for some­thing the child can’t con­trol,” Pet­tis said. “The baby might be born in un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances, but it’s still a hu­man life.”

The vote

Rep. Shamed Do­gan was the only Repub­li­can to vote against the bill. He cited the lack of ex­cep­tions for preg­nan­cies borne of rape and in­cest, and said most res­i­dents of his sub­ur­ban St. Louis dis­trict “think that’s go­ing too far.”

One Demo­crat voted in fa­vor.

A to­tal of 3,903 abor­tions oc­curred in Mis­souri in 2017, the last full year for which the state De­part­ment of Health and Se­nior Ser­vices has statis­tics on­line. Of those, 1,673 oc­curred at un­der nine weeks and 119 oc­curred at 20 weeks or later in a preg­nancy.

About 2,900 abor­tions oc­curred in 2018, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

The bill also bans abor­tions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis in­di­cat­ing the po­ten­tial for Down syn­drome.

Most pro­vi­sions of the bill are slated to take ef­fect Aug. 28, if signed by Par­son.

CHRIS­TIAN GOODEN / ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH VIA AP

Abor­tion-rights ac­tivists seated in the Mis­souri House re­act af­ter law­mak­ers approved a sweep­ing piece of anti-abor­tion leg­is­la­tion Fri­day in Jef­fer­son, Mo.

CHRIS­TIAN GOODEN / ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH VIA AP

Abor­tion-rights ac­tivists re­act af­ter law­mak­ers approved a sweep­ing piece of anti-abor­tion leg­is­la­tion, a bill that would ban most abor­tions in the state of Mis­souri, on Fri­day in Jef­fer­son, Mo.

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