Late-Term Abortion Bills Await Governor Nixon's Signature
Viable preborn children in Missouri would be protected from the brutality of late-term abortion under bills now on the desk of Governor Jay Nixon. The Missouri House and Senate adopted identical bills banning most late-term abortions in the final week of this year's session of the General Assembly.
The Missouri House adopted Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Senator Rob Mayer of Dexter, by an overwhelming
bipartisan vote of 121-33. The Missouri Senate adopted House Bill 213, sponsored by Representative Tim Jones of Eureka, by an even more decisive vote of 28-5. Both bills were initiated and developed by the Missouri Family Policy Council in concert with Americans United for Life.
Representative Jones challenged his colleagues to take a stand in support of innocent human life. "The question is whether you support the barbaric practice of ripping a child from the mother's womb in the late term and slaughtering it. Continuing to disregard the miracle of life as if it were an inconvenience is incomprehensible. Deliberately ending the life of a child struggling to live is wrong. It is time to give these children the same right to life that you and I enjoy."
Representative Keith Frederick of Rolla, a physician, offered some of the most moving testimony during the legislative debate. "These are little people. They have some vision and hearing. They feel pain. Their little hearts are beating. They're moving their limbs. And they are innocent as new-born babes. Yet some will receive a death sentence though they have done absolutely nothing whatsoever to deserve it."
Senator Mayer, who was also the sponsor of last year's major ultrasound/informed consent law, expressed great satisfaction with the passage of the late-term abortion ban. "Last year's bill required that mothers be told the truth about the life of the unborn child and other
alternatives to abortion. But this measure is particularly important to me in that it serves to ensure babies capable of sustaining life outside the womb are not subject to such an unnecessary and horrific end to their life."
Governor Nixon has until July 15th to decide whether he will sign the bills, veto them, or let them become law without his signature. The latter option is the one the Governor chose last year, when the ultrasound/informed consent bill became law when the Governor declined to either sign or veto the legislation. Should the Governor decide to veto the bills, he would almost certainly have his veto
overridden. Republicans hold a firm veto-proof majority in the Senate. While Republicans are three votes short of a veto-proof majority in the House, a number of pro-life Democrats would not hesitate to override the Governor on this issue.
Under current law, an abortion can be performed on a viable unborn child to protect "the life or health" of the mother. However, the "health" exception has been interpreted so broadly by the courts that it encompasses any and all situations, including emotional distress, mental anxiety, or an inability or unwillingness to raise a child.
The bills passed by the Legislature would restrict post-viability abortions to instances in which the life of the mother is truly threatened, or when genuine significant health risks are involved. Two physicians who have no legal or financial relationship would have to agree and certify that continuation of the pregnancy would "create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
Missouri currently has a statute on the books that requires that when the gestational age of the unborn child is twenty weeks or more, an abortionist must first determine if the unborn child is viable. Viability is defined as that stage of fetal development "when the life of the unborn child may be continue indefinitely outside the womb by natural or artificial life-supportive systems."
Yet the meaningless late-term abortion restrictions in the current law allow the doctor to proceed with an abortion regardless of the viability of the child. Should the new bills become law, a physician with knowledge of accepted obstetrical and neonatal standard of care and practice would have to verify to the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts that the abortion is one of medical necessity. The Healing Arts Board has the power to license and discipline doctors in Missouri.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports that only 63 abortions were performed in Missouri in 2009 at 21 weeks gestation or later. We believe these numbers reflect false reporting and underreporting by institutions performing late-term abortions.
Opponents of the bills claimed that all 63 reported late-term abortions were performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and all of them involved "fatal fetal anomalies." The fact is not all of these abortions were performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and not all abortions performed at Barnes Hospital are due to lethal anomalies in the preborn child. Barnes-Jewish Hospital has an incentive to conduct late-term procedures. Barnes has an agreement with Planned Parenthood and Washington University to train "academic fellows" to become "expert" in late-term abortion procedures. Barnes is part of a nationwide network of teaching hospitals that is training the next generation of abortionists.
The major impact of the new law will be to discourage doctors who "specialize" in late-term abortions from setting up shop in Missouri. The Midwest has been home to notorious late-term abortionists, namely the late George Tiller in Wichita, and Leroy Carhart in Bellevue, Nebraska. Carhart recently left Nebraska to set up his practice in other states due to a tough late-term abortion law adopted by the Nebraska Legislature.
Under the bills adopted by the Missouri Legislature, any doctor found guilty of performing a late-term abortion would be imprisoned for a minimum of one year, and fined anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. They would also have their license to practice medicine revoked. Hospitals that knowingly allow illegal late-term abortions to be performed on their premises would be subject to suspension of their operating license.
These bills send a distinct message to unscrupulous doctors who victimize viable unborn children: Missouri has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to late-term abortions. Physicians who choose to engage in the hideous practice of late-term abortion do so at great peril to their own livelihood.
We are grateful to the many members of the General Assembly who voted to defend the lives of defenseless unborn children who are just weeks away from birth. We especially thank both
Senator Mayer and Representative Jones for their exceptional leadership in winning passage of these bills, and for being passionate spokesmen for the right to life.
We encourage you to contact your state senator and state representative to either thank them for their votes or express concern about their decision to turn their backs on these atrocities. You can contact your state representative through this link:
You can reach your state senator by using this link:
Here is how legislators voted on the two bills:
Representatives voting for Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 65:
Allen, Anders, Asbury, Aull, Bahr, Barnes, Bernskoetter, Berry, Black, Brandom, Brattin, Brown (Michael), 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, 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, Meadows, Molendorp, Nance, Neth, Nolte, Parkinson, Phillips, Pollock, Quinn, Redmon, Reiboldt, Richardson, Riddle, Rowland, Ruzicka, Schad, Scharnhorst, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Schneider, Schoeller, Shively, Shumake, Silvey, Smith (Jason), Solon, Stream, Swinger, Thomson, Torpey, Wallingford, Wells, Weter, White, Wieland, Wright, Wyatt, and Zerr
Representatives voting against SS SB 65:
Atkins, Carlson, Carter, Colona, Ellinger, Hubbard, Hughes, Jones (Tishaura), Kander, Kelly, Kirkton, Lampe, May, McCann Beatty, McDonald, McNeil, Montecillo, Newman, Nichols, Oxford, Pace, Pierson, Rizzo, Schupp, Sifton, Smith (Clem), Spreng, Still, Swearingen, Talboy, Taylor, Walton Gray, Webb
Representatives voting present:
Representatives absent with leave:
McGeoghegan, Nasheed, Sater, Webber
Senators voting for Senate Substitute for House Bill 213:
Brown, Callahan, Crowell, Cunningham, Dempsey, Dixon, Engler, Goodman, Kehoe, Kraus, Lager, Lamping, Lembke, Mayer, McKenna, Munzlinger, Nieves, Parson, Pearce, Purgason, Richard, Ridgeway, Rupp, Schaaff, Schaefer, Schmitt, Stouffer, Wasson
Senators voting against SS HB 213:
Chappelle-Nadal, Curls, Justus, Keaveny, Wright-Jones