Missouri House Approves Late-Term Abortion Restrictions
The Missouri House of Representatives has acted to protect the lives of viable unborn children by approving legislation restricting late-term abortions. The House has endorsed a proposal sponsored by
House Majority Leader Tim Jones of Eureka which would ban non-therapetic abortions when a preborn child is able to survive outside the mother's womb. House members adopted House Committee Substitute for House Bill 213 by a vote of 119-38.
"The State has a responsibility to protect those who are most needy," Representative Jones says. "I cannot think of anyone more innocent and more needy than an unborn child. This legislation will finally install into Missouri law a virtual ban on the barbaric practice of late-term abortions."
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.
The central objective of Representative Jones' legislation 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. As Representative Jones stated during debate, "If the state has no interest in life and viability and simply decides that life can be eradicated, then there will be no more life, there will be no more taxpayers, and the state will cease to exist."
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."
Opponents of the bill argued that most late-term abortions are performed because of severe "fetal defects" or "fetal anomalies." Yet spokesmen for the abortion industry have acknowledged in the past that many if not most late-term abortions are done for purely elective reasons. While the proposed law would allow abortions when an unborn child suffers from a fatal condition, pro-life legislators argued that preborn children with non-lethal handicapping conditions still have the ability to lead a meaningful and satisfying life.
Late-term abortions constitute a small percentage of the overall number of abortions each year. The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a total of 13, 252 abortions were performed on Missouri women in 2009, with 48% of those being obtained in neighboring states. The reports show that 77 abortions were performed at 21 weeks gestation and later.
While some may argue that the number of late-term abortions is few, they clearly involve the most heinous acts of violence against unborn children. As Representative Jones well stated. "These are precious little lives that are no different than the children whose lives are being supported and saved in neonatal intensive care units across the country."
Most late-term abortions are performed in the hospital setting. While some may occur through mechanized destruction and dismemberment of the child, they are more often accomplished through chemical means. Preborn children are injected with a lethal substance such as potassium chloride or digoxin to stop the baby's heart. The doctor then delivers the dead baby.
Missouri's lax laws governing late-term abortions invite abortionists who market such abortion "services" to set up shop in our state. The Midwest has been a mecca for late-term abortions with the nationally advertised late-term clinics that were operated for years by George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas and LeRoy Carhart in Bellevue, Nebraska. Tiller's business shut down following his murder, and Carhart recently announced he was closing his clinic due to a tough new late-term abortion law enacted in Nebraska. Carhart is now exporting his late-term "practice" to Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland.
While all abortionists are individuals without conscience, late-term abortionists tend to be the worst of the modern-day "back-alley" abortionists. The most egregious recent example is Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia. Gosnell was indicted by a federal grand jury for several counts of infanticide. The grand jury investigation revealed that Gosnell delivered children alive during the fifth to eighth months of pregnancy, and then killed them by slicing the backs of their necks with scissors and severing their spinal cords. Like many late-term abortionists, Gosnell operated a horridly unsanitary facility and used unqualified medical personnel. The grand jury discovered that a 15-year old high school student who was the daughter of the office manager was
administering intravenous anesthesia.
Representative Jones' bill now moves to the Senate, where the companion late-term abortion bill sponsored by President Pro Tem Rob Mayer is expected to be debated next week.
The Missouri Family Policy Council initiated and developed the bill sponsored by Representative Jones with assistance from Americans United for Life. We are very grateful for Tim's courageous leadership and exceptionally skillful handling of this issue. We also commend each member of the House who voted to protect the lives of viable preborn children.
Below you will find a list of how state representatives voted on this issue. We encourage you to contact your state representative to either thank them or express concern about their vote. You can do so by using this link:
We also encourage you to contact your state senator to let them know of your support for the late-term abortion bill. Please be praying for Senator Mayer and his colleagues as they prepare to take up this critical issue. You can communicate with your state senator by clicking this link:
State Representatives voting for House Committee Substitute for House Bill 213:
Allen, Anders, Asbury, Aull, Bahr, Barnes, Bernskoetter, Berry, Black, Brandom, Brattin, Brown (Cloria), Brown (Wanda), Burlison, Casey, Cauthorn, Cierpiot, Conway (Kathie), Conway (Pat), Cookson, Cox, Crawford, Cross, Curtman, Davis, Day, Denison, Dieckhaus, Diehl, Dugger, Elmer, Entlicher, Faith, Fallert, Fisher, Fitzwater, Flanigan, Fraker, Franklin, Franz, Frederick, Fuhr, Funderburk, Gatschenberger, Gosen, Grisamore, Guernsey, Haefner, Hampton, Harris, Higdon, Hinson, Hodges, Hoskins, Hough, Houghton, Hummel, Johnson, Jones (Tim), Jones (Caleb), Keeney, Kelley, Klippenstein, Koenig, Korman, Kratky, Lair, Lant, Largent, Lasater, Lauer, Leach, Leara, Lichtenegger, Loehner, Long, Marshall, McCaherty, McGhee, McManus, McNary, Molendorp, Nance, Nasheed, Neth, Phillips, Pollock, Redmon, Reiboldt, Richardson, Riddle, Rowland, Ruzicka, Sater, Schad, Scharnhorst, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Schneider, Schoeller, Shively, Shumake, Silvey, Smith (Jason), Solon, Stream, Swinger, Thomson, Tilley, Torpey, Wallingford, Wells, Weter, White, Wieland, Wright, Wyatt, and Zerr
State Representatives voting against HCS HB 213:
Atkins, Brown (Michael), Carlson, Carter, Colona, Ellinger, Holsman, Hubbard, Hughes, Jones (Tishaura), Kander, Kelly, Kirkton, Lampe, May, McCann Beatty, McDonald, McGeoghegan, McNeil, Montecillo, Newman, Nichols, Oxford, Pace, Peters-Baker, Pierson, Rizzo, Schupp, Sifton, Smith (Clem), Spreng, Still, Swearingen, Talboy, Walton Gray, Webb, Webber, Zimmerman
Absent with Leave:
Meadows, Nolte, Parkinson, Quinn, Taylor