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Missouri Family E-NewsJuly 19, 2011

   

Human Trafficking Legislation Signed by Governor
 
 

The sordid business of human trafficking will come under enhanced scrutiny and prosecution in Missouri under legislation signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon.

 

The new law makes it possible to more effectively prosecute persons who engage in the commercial trafficking of women and children for purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation.

 

The Governor signed House Bill 213, sponsored by Representative Anne Zerr of St. Charles, which had been adopted unanimously by both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.

 

The most significant feature of the bill is the broadening of the definition of human trafficking in the state's criminal law.  The new definition includes not only forced prostitution, but also the trafficking of women and children in the production of "adult" and child pornography, and in performances at sexually oriented businesses.

 

The new law also beefs up the interpretation of involuntary servitude and sexual bondage.  Current law prohibits sexual trafficking through physical force or threats to cause physical harm.  The new statute expands the reach of the law to include acts of psychological coercion such as fraud, deception, blackmail, or threats to cause financial harm.

 

Victims of human trafficking will also receive greater justice under the new law.   Those found guilty of the crime of human trafficking will be required to pay specific restitution to the victim, including any expenses for physical and mental rehabilitation.  Victims would also be enabled to pursue civil action against their perpetrators, seeking both actual and punitive damages.

 

The new human trafficking statute is designed to dismember complex and serpentine human trafficking enterprises.   Prosecutors will now be able to go after not only those who enslave or secure human trafficking victims, but also those who benefit financially in any way from participation in such activities.

 

Penalties for involuntary servitude and sexual trafficking are increased to parallel those found in federal law.  The Attorney General is authorized to seek civil penalties against human trafficking networks, with proceeds pledged to victim restitution.

 

The Missouri Family Policy Council originated and drafted the new human trafficking bill in collaboration with the Missouri Catholic Conference.  We are thankful for the leadership of Representative Zerr, as well as Senators Jack Goodman and John Lamping, who sponsored similar legislation in that chamber.

 

The new law sends a concerted message to those who traffic in the insidious business of sexual slavery:  Don't set foot in Missouri. 

 

  

Governor Puts Pen to Student Protection Measure
 
 

Governor Jay Nixon has signed new legislation which will make it easier to keep sexual predators and child abusers out of Missouri classrooms and locker rooms.

 

The new child protection measure takes aim at a chronic problem involving Missouri teachers and coaches who take sexual advantage of their students.  Missouri's public schools have been plagued by educators who bounce from school district to school district after engaging in sexual misconduct with students.

 

The problem traces to no information being shared between school districts as to why an employee was released or resigned.  School officials withhold that information due to personnel policies, employment contracts, or confidentiality agreements.

 

Under the new law, school districts will be immune from civil liability for sharing employment record information.  In fact, any school district which fails to disclose such information when furnishing a reference would have major legal liability. 

 

Complaints of sexual abuse by teachers must be reported to state child abuse authorities within 24 hours.  If the complaint is substantiated, the school district must immediately suspend the employment of the alleged abuser.

 

State education authorities will also be required to conduct an annual background check of every person holding a teaching certificate against federal and state criminal history records, and the state's sexual offender and child abuse registries.

 

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield, who has pressed the issue relentlessly over several years.  Her bill was passed unanimously by both the Missouri House and Senate.

 

Senator Cunningham named the bill the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act.  Amy Hestir is a Missouri woman who was repeatedly molested by her teacher and coach during her junior high school years.  That teacher continued to teach and coach in other school districts long after Hestir was victimized.

 

 

Governor Nixon Gives Pass to Late-Term Abortion Bill

 

 

Preborn children who have reached the stage of viability will soon have legal protection of their right to life under Missouri law.  Governor Jay Nixon has allowed two identical bills banning most late-term abortions to become law without his signature.  Effective August 28th, no abortion can be performed on a viable unborn child in Missouri except in extreme circumstances.

 

Doctors will be prohibited from aborting a child whose life can be continued outside the womb through natural or artificial means.  The only exceptions would be when continuation of the pregnancy poses a serious threat to the life of the mother or would result in documented significant health risks to the mother.

 

While Governor Nixon has in recent years staked out a position in support of abortion rights, this is the second year in a row that the Governor has chosen not to veto a major piece of pro-life legislation.  Rather than face a showdown with the Legislature and a highly likely override of his veto, Nixon exercised his constitutional prerogative to take no action on the bills.  By choosing not to endorse the bills with his signature nor send them back to the Legislature with his objections, the pieces of legislation become law on their own.

 

Governor Nixon told reporters that abortion "is a public policy that's talked about in Missouri tremendously, and I've tried to make sure that we are sensitive to all sides of the issue."  In an official statement, the Governor declared, "This legislation was approved by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in both houses.  Although people have differing views on this issue, it's important that we work together to provide accurate health information, promote personal responsibility, protect women's health, and improve foster care, adoption and child protection services."

 

Indeed, both bills were adopted by each chamber of the Legislature with decisive, bipartisan veto-proof majorities.  Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Senator Rob Mayer of Dexter, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 27-5, and by the House by a vote of 121-33.  House Bill 213, sponsored by Representative Tim Jones of Eureka, was endorsed by the House by a vote of 119-38, and by the Senate by a vote of 28-5. 

 

The major legal impact of the bill will be to narrow considerably the instances in which late-term abortions are performed for reasons of "medical necessity."  Under current Missouri law, post- viability abortions can be done when  "necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother."  However, federal courts have ruled that "health of the mother" 

encompasses all possible factors, including mental distress, emotional anxiety, and an unwillingness or inability to raise a child.


Missouri law will now limit late-term abortions to situations where A) the mother's life is endangered by a "physical disorder, physical illnes, or physical injury," or B) when the continuation of the pregnancy would create a "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of  the pregnant woman."  A second independent physician with knowledge of obstetrical and neonatal standards of care and practice" will have to certify that those conditions exist.

 

The bottom line is that there will no longer be a "mental health" exception in Missouri law when it comes to post-viability abortions.  Missouri joins Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana, and Idaho in limiting the health exception required by federal courts to significant physical health risks.

 

Doctors who perform an illegal late-term abortion will face very dire consequences if prosecuted.  Such physicians if convicted will be incarcerated for at least a year, fined from ten to fifty thousand dollars, and will have their license to practice medicine revoked.  Medical facilities that knowingly allow illegal late-term abortions to be performed on the premises will face suspension of their operating license.

 

The net effect of the new law will be to dissuade doctors who specialize in performing late-abortions from establishing abortion clinics in Missouri.  The new law will also put an end to the performance of elective late-term abortions at hospitals like Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. 

 

While it would appear doubtful that the new late-term abortion ban will be challenged in court by a plaintiff with standing to sue, we are confident that if it is, it will ultimately be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The High Court has previously ruled that viability is the point at which the existence of the preborn child can be an object of state protection that "overrides the rights of the woman."  The court has further stated that "a woman who fails to act before viability has consented to the state's intervention on behalf of the developing child."

 

We appreciate Governor Nixon's decision again this year to respect and accept the prevailing pro-life position of the Missouri Legislature and the pro-life values of the people of Missouri.  We are deeply grateful for the extraordinary pro-life commitment and leadership of Senator Mayer, Representative Jones, and their colleagues. 

 

The Missouri Family Policy Council initiated and developed these bills in consultation with Americans United for Life.  We give thanks to God for this major pro-life victory, and for the opportunity to advocate for defenseless human life.

 

You can read the text of the new law by clicking this link:

Senate Bill 65  

Joe's Signature