Republicans ready to push abortion bills through the Missouri legislature

Mar 10, 2017

Placing more restrictions and limiting access to abortion in Missouri remains a high priority for Republican leaders in the Missouri General Assembly, although the issue has taken a bit of a back seat lately to getting right-to-work passed and other workplace and labor issue.

That may be about to change.

Five bills regarding abortion access and regulations are ready for debate in the Missouri Senate, although they're not expected to come up until after the annual legislative spring break, which begins March 17. While there aren’t any abortion bills ready for debate yet in the House, there’s been a recent spike in the number of bills filed and heard in committee, according to Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

“We’re seeing numerous bills be rushed through committee all of a sudden,” she said. “My Children and Families committee are hearing three and four what we consider extreme anti-reproductive health bills each week.”

Newman cites one example – the so-called “personhood” constitutional amendment that passed the House last year but died in the Senate. It’s back again this year as HJR 18. It would define as a person, “every human being, including every unborn human child at every stage of biological development from the moment of conception until birth.” It needs another committee vote before advancing to the full Missouri House for floor debate. If it makes it out of the legislature it would go before Missouri voters in 2018.

House Joint Resolution 18 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove. He’s also sponsoring legislation that would require the Missouri State Museum inside the Capitol to “include a display on the history of abortion.” That bill is not expected to advance.

Democrats also argue that women’s health care providers are still being targeted by Republicans because of an altered video years ago claiming that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue. House Bill 194 contains several provisions, including one requiring that all fetal remains to be sent to a pathology lab for examination.

“Currently in statute, only a portion of the aborted baby goes to the pathologist,” said the sponsor, Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton. “We want to be sure that the disposal of fetal remains is done in a way that matches regulations from the Department of Natural Resources.”

Franklin’s bill would also extend whistleblower protections to abortion clinic employees over any violations regarding fetal tissue disposal, and requires annual inspections of clinics. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, sponsors an identical bill in the Senate.

“The reason we need to require annual inspections is because of the politically sensitive nature of abortion clinics,” he said. “Many times they’re just left alone and not inspected and insured for safety.”

Other bills being pushed by Missouri lawmakers include:

  • House Bill 174 – would shield crisis pregnancy centers and other abortion alternative businesses from a recently-passed city ordinance in St. Louis. Board Bill 203 adds pregnancy and reproductive health decisions to the city’s anti-discrimination definition.
  • House Bill 182 – would make it illegal to transport a minor across state lines without parental consent to obtain an abortion.
  • House Bill 908 – would ban abortions on fetuses old enough to feel physical pain
  • House Bill 989 – would bar local governments from establishing themselves as “sanctuaries for abortions”
  • Senate Bill 196 – would grant jurisdiction for enforcing abortion laws to Missouri’s attorney general
  • Senate Bill 96 – would ban selective abortions based on “sex, race, or Down Syndrome”
  • Senate Bill 230 – requires referrals for out of state abortions to include specific printed materials

How Missouri compares to Kansas

Missouri is one of a handful of states that has a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion. Kansas has a 24-hour waiting period, and lots of women cross the state line according to Elise Higgins, who lobbies for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

“There’s always been state line crossover when it comes to women in the Kansas City area who need an abortion,” she said. “That said, those numbers have increased since the 72-hour waiting period took effect, and we expect them to continue to, or we expect women to just not be able to access the health care they need.”

Legislatively speaking, only one abortion-related bill is being considered by Kansas lawmakers: Senate Bill 98 would require abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. It’s designed to duplicate an existing Kansas law in the event it’s tossed out, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a similar law in Texas.

Both states ban abortions of “viable” fetuses, but allow exceptions if it can be medically determined that carrying the child to full term would threaten the mother’s life.

Kansas has another law that’s currently being blocked. It forbids doctors from using surgical tools to remove a live fetus in pieces, a process known as dilation and evacuation. It was passed in 2015, but has never taken effect due to court challenges. The “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act” is scheduled to be heard before the Kansas Supreme Court next week.

Krissy Lane contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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