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