The Missouri House of Representatives has approved a cumbersome proposal that establishes a series of major restrictions on legalized abortion. The measure was approved last week by the House on a vote of 117-39, and includes various versions of bills prohibiting abortion during most or all of a child’s prenatal development.
The underlying legislation was House Bill 126, sponsored by Representative Nick Schroer of St. Charles County. That proposal prohibits abortions when “there is a detectable heartbeat or brain function of the unborn child.” If no heartbeat is detected, an abortion may be performed or induced within 96 hours of the conclusion of the heartbeat test.
There is substantial consensus in the medical community that a preborn child’s heart starts beating by approximately 22 days after conception, and that the heartbeat can be detected by an early ultrasound exam from 6-8 weeks into a pregnancy.
Schroer’s bill was amended to also include alternate forms of abortion bans at 8 weeks of the gestational age of the unborn child, 14 weeks of gestational age, and 18 weeks of gestational age. The language of the bill stipulates that if a certain ban is found unconstitutional, a prohibition at the next later stage would take effect.
As things currently stand, none of these sequentially timed abortion bans would be upheld in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that no restrictions can be placed on a woman’s ultimate decision to obtain an abortion prior to the point at which a preborn child reaches the stage of viability.
The omnibus bill was further amended to incorporate what has been touted in recent years as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” That measure prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, based on the growing biological and scientific determination that an unborn child experiences pain by that juncture in a pregnancy.
Most significantly, the House endorsed an amendment known as the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act.” Sponsored by Representative Adam Schnelting of St. Charles, that section enacts a ban on the performance of any abortion at any time except in cases of medical emergency.
Schnelting’s proposal is what is commonly referred to among pro-life leaders as a “trigger” bill. It would not take effect unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in whole or in part. A determination that the Supreme Court has truly taken such action could be made through an opinion by Missouri’s attorney general, a proclamation by the Governor, or the adoption of a concurrent resolution by the Missouri Legislature.
“I am proud that Missouri, the Show-Me State, is showing the rest of the country that we will stick up for the unborn, those precious little children that have no one else to speak for them,” said Representative Sonya Anderson of Springfield, during debate on the House floor.
Governor Mike Parson responded quickly to the House’s action to signal strong support for the pro-life bill. “I am honored to lead a state with so many people committed to standing up for those without a voice,” the Governor said in a statement. “I applaud the bipartisan efforts of the Missouri House for choosing to take a bold stand to protect women’s health and the right to life.”
The final pro-life package approved by the House is replete with tangled and tortuous language that will inevitably receive an unfavorable reception from federal judges. The bill departs from standard legislative practice in Missouri by including jumbled pages of legislative “findings” and assumptions that will be fiercely contested by pro-abortion attorneys and leading medical authorities who have fully embraced the pro-abortion agenda.
House Bill 126 as amended now moves to the Missouri Senate, where it will face enormous resistance from pro-abortion senators who will engage in a feverish full-fledged filibuster. Senate leaders will have to adopt the infrequently used option to shut down debate to move some version of the pro-life bill to final passage.