The Missouri Senate has given initial approval to comprehensive pro-life legislation which will bolster the state's informed consent law and keep abortion out of health insurance policies. The blockbuster bill adopted by the Senate combines separate pro-life proposals
introduced by Senators Rob Mayer of Dexter and Senator Scott Rupp of Wentzville.
Mayer's bill establishes rigorous requirements that ensure that women considering abortion receive full information about the nature and risks of the abortion procedure. Pregnant women would be shown pictures of the development of the preborn child and would be informed that
abortion terminates the life of "a separate, unique, living human being."
The legislation requires that the Department of Health and Senior Services prepare informational packets which must be presented to the woman in person 24 hours before the abortion procedure. The packets would include information about the immediate and long-term risks abortion poses to the physical and mental health of the mother. The written materials would also detail the names and contact information for agencies willing to support women who choose to give birth to their child.
Most significantly, the bill stipulates that women must be afforded an an opportunity to see an ultrasound of their child 24 hours before the abortion, and also hear the heartbeat of the child if it is audible. Women with advanced pregnancies
will also be advised that abortion may cause serious pain to their unborn child. Abortion clinics would not be able to collect payment for an abortion until 24 hours after the woman has been provided the information, and would be required to inform the woman that she is free to withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time. She must also be told that the father of the unborn child is legally liable to assist in the support of the child, even if he has offered to pay for the abortion.
Missouri currently has an informed consent law on the books. However, it is not specific as to the information the woman is to receive, and as a result abortion clinics are under no legal burden to tell women the truth about the procedure and its consequences. While the present law
calls for consultation by the abortionist with the woman, it is clear that this "consultation" is often
occurring over the phone. Under the proposed law, a qualified licensed professional would be required to meet with the woman 24 hours before the abortion to provide her with the state packet of information in person, answer questions she may have, and provide her with the opportunity to view an ultrasound.
Senator Rupp's bill addresses head-on the pro-abortion provisions of the recently enacted federal health care bill. That legislation provides government subsidies to individuals to buy health insurance from health insurance
exchanges established by federal regulation in each state. With those taxpayer subsidies, individuals of low to moderate income would be able to purchase health insurance plans which cover abortion. Individuals who choose to purchase coverage within a health insurance exchange from an insurer who offers abortion coverage would be required to pay an abortion surcharge regardless of their age, sex, or family status.
Senator Rupp's measure takes advantage of a provision in the federal health care bill that authorizes states to opt out of the abortion coverage provisions of the law. To do so,
states must pass a law exempting themselves from the federal abortion mandate. The language endorsed by the Senate states that no health insurance exchange established in the state may offer health insurance policies that provide coverage for elective abortions.
Missouri law currently prohibits the sale of health insurance coverage for abortion unless it is offered through an optional rider for which an additional premium is paid. Such riders would not be available under Rupp's bill if the health insurance plan is subsidized by federal taxpayer dollars or tax credits.
The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to the comprehensive pro-life bill on a voice vote. A final recorded vote will occur this week. Then the bill will move to the House, which has already approved its own bill including virtually the
same informed consent sections. It is hoped that the House will ratify the Senate measure, or move quickly to a conference where any differences can be resolved. The ultrasound/informed consent bill died last year when the House and Senate could not agree on differences in the final language.
We ask you to be praying in earnest that this crucial pro-life proposal will be "truly agreed and finally passed" in these final four weeks of the legislative session. Please also pray that legislators are able to separate fact from fiction as they reach conclusions about the best course of action which will result in ultimate passage of this bill.