Missouri Family E-News

March 10, 2015

                      
Bill Calls for
Inspections
of Abortion Clinics    


The Missouri House of Representatives has approved legislation requiring that state health officials inspect abortion clinics on an annual basis.

The proposal, House Bill 190, is sponsored by Representative Kathy Swan of Cape Giraradeau.  It was endorsed by the House on a vote of 119-35, more than enough to overcome a potential veto by Governor Jay Nixon.

Under current law, ambulatory surgical centers must be licensed each year by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  The scope of the law includes abortion clinics which perform five or more first trimester abortions per month, or one or more second or third trimester abortions.

The existing statute calls for inspections and investigations to be performed as the department "deems necessary."  However, state regulations stipulate that a survey (or inspection) shall be performed each year in connection with a facility's license renewal.

The Missouri Family Policy Council learned last summer that the state's major abortion clinic in St. Louis has not been inspected in eight of the last fourteen years.  Department officials say the inspections were not conducted "due to staff limitations."

The push to enact the law has been driven by repeated incidents of medical emergency at the Reproductive Health Services clinic operated by Planned Parenthood.

The pro-life group Defenders of the Unborn has documented more than two dozen episodes in which women have been rushed to local hospitals by ambulances in the last few years.

State health officials did conduct an inspection of the St. Louis clinic in 2013.  It revealed rusty suction abortion machines, surgical tables, IV stands, and other equipment.  Investigators also found expired drugs and violations of inspection prevention protocols.

"The types of violations found at this facility present serious safety concerns for patients," says Representative Swan, who is a former registered nurse.

"All patients, regardless of race, procedure, geographic location, or gender, deserve the highest standards of care in our state," Rep. Swan added.

Troy Newman, Director of Operation Rescue, says the legislation is long overdue.  "We consider the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis to be among the most dangerous abortion facilities in the country."

"We are grateful to local citizens who have documented the long list of medical emergencies there so that the public can be made aware of Planned Parenthood's shoddy and dangerous practices that routinely endanger the lives of women."

Supporters of the bill have pointed out the risks that occur when abortion clinics go uninspected.  Notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell operated his "house of horrors" in Philadelephia after Pennsylvania state officials suspended abortion clinic investigations as a favor to the abortion industry.

The bill now moves to the Missouri Senate, where an identical measure has been introduced by Senator Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau.
  

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Missouri Legislators Consider Bill to Battle Child Sex Trafficking

The Missouri General Assembly is considering legislation which would strengthen the state's laws criminalizing the sexual trafficking of children.  Sponsored by Representative Elijah Haahr of Springfield, the proposal targets the advertising of minors for sexual activity.

Current state law prohibits a person from recruiting, enticing, providing, obtaining, or transporting a minor for the purpose of participating in a commercial sex act, a sexual performance, or the production of explicit sexual material.  Representative Haahr's bill would add the advertising of a minor for such purposes to the elements of the felony crime of sexual trafficking of a child.

The legislation is designed to address underage sexual conduct resulting from numerous online websites through which individuals seek and offer sexual encounters.  Human trafficking enterprises use these websites to advertise the sexual "services" of women and children whom they have enslaved in the sex trade.

Representative Haahr says the scourge of sexual trafficking is a serious problem in Missouri.  "In a recent four-year period, 125 women were rescued from human trafficking right here in Cole County.  Just last year, a woman in southeast Missouri was advertising one of her own children for sale online."

During a legislative hearing on the bill, Jefferson City native Jessica Luebbert shared her own experience.  "I thought I was going on a modeling trip to Maui.  After three days of being drugged and being forced into sex with strangers at a hotel, I was able to escape by getting the attention of a hotel employee."

Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner traveled to Jefferson City to testify on behalf of the legislative proposal.  Representative Wagner has been a leading figure on the national level in efforts to combat the human trafficking industry.  She has challenged her colleagues to recognize that prostitution has migrated to an online marketplace.

"Online classified services have become the vehicles for advertising the victims of the child sex trade to the world," Wagner said during her testimony.  "Online customers log onto websites and order a young girl into their hotel room as easily as if they were ordering a pepperoni pizza.  While street-level prostitutes and customers are forced to operate in public spaces, online sex customers remain out of the physical sight of law enforcement," Wagner said during her testimony.

"Traffickers blatantly advertise their victim's sexual 'services' with provocative photographs and unsubtle messages complete with per hour pricing," the Congresswoman added.  " Online sex customers experience a lower risk of being caught due to the relative anonymity inherent in internet-based solicitation."

Congresswoman Wagner has sponsored comparable legislation to combat child prostitution in Washington known as the SAVE Act (Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation.)  It would amend the federal criminal code to ban the advertising of minors online for the purposes of sexual contact.   The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year, but failed to win passage in the Senate.  Wagner has renewed her push for the legislation in the current session of Congress.
A major target of Representative Wagner's efforts is the notorious website Backpage.com.  "Traffickers pay classified websites like Backpage.com to display their messages, and these websites reap enormous profits at the expense of the victims of sex trafficking," she says. It is estimated that Backpage makes $4 to 5 million per month from online prostitution advertising.

Earlier this year, Wagner joined with Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois in demanding that the U.S. Justice Department "dismantle" Backpage.com.  In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the legislators demanded that federal prosecutors put an end to the online solicitation of child sex being advertised by Backpage.com as "escort services."  We applaud her continuing valiant efforts on this issue.

Back in Jefferson City, Representative Haahr's bill, House Bill 152, has been endorsed by the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees.  It is expected to be debated by the full House in coming weeks.

The Missouri Legislature overhauled its state statutes dealing with human trafficking in 2011.  The bill unanimously enacted into law was drafted by the Missouri Family Policy Council in concert with the Missouri Catholic Conference.  A leading organization fighting sex trafficking, Shared Hope International, has described Missouri's current law as the second toughest of any state in the nation.

At the same time, Representative Haahr is addressing a key area in the law that remains unaddressed, and we commend him for doing so.  His proposal gives county prosecutors a critical added tool to go after abominable human trafficking networks that profit from destroying the lives of young women through forced sexual servitude.

If this proposal is enacted into law, those who use salacious advertising mediums to market young girls in the sex trade can be prosecuted in more sweeping fashion.  And those sleazy online advertising sites that knowingly facilitate the child sex trade for their financial benefit can be brought to justice as well.

United Nations officials estimate that human trafficking generates $9.5 billion in revenue each year in the United States.  The Department of Justice projects that around 300,000 children are at risk of being exploited by sex traffickers in the U.S. each year.  Experts say that the average age for child sex trade victims to enter into prostitution in the United States is 13 to 14 years old.

Now is the time to close down the major conduit for the continuing sexual victimization of innocent children--the online sex solicitation industry.  By doing so, many teenage girls will be spared from the vile behavior of those who would despoil their human dignity and ravage their souls for life.

You can contact your legislators to urge their support for House Bill 152 by using these links:

Your State Representative
Your State Senator

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