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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Miss. Lawmakers Petition To Allow Consideration of Bill Regulating Abortions for Minors

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Miss. Lawmakers Petition To Allow Consideration of Bill Regulating Abortions for Minors
[April 15, 2008]

Nine Mississippi House members on Friday filed a petition to temporarily change a House rule that currently is holding up advancement of a Senate-approved bill (HB 520) that would restrict abortions for minors, the AP/Biloxi Sun Herald reports (Wagster Pettus, AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/12). The legislation, originally aimed at penalizing people who falsely reported child abuse, was amended by the Senate to allow parents or guardians to sue anyone who helps their pregnant minors obtain an abortion without their consent as well as require that fetal tissue from abortions performed on girls younger than age 14 be saved for DNA testing to determine the father. The bill also would penalize physicians, teachers and other professionals who work with children for failing to report alleged or suspected sexual assault of children (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31). Some lawmakers have said the reporting provision would require adults who supervise children to report to local and state authorities if they know of two underage teens are engaging in sexual activity, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Harrison, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 4/13).

The House recently voted 79-41 to pass the antiabortion bill, but the measure was held up by Rep. Willie Bailey (D), who as the Chair of the committee of jurisdiction has the authority to table a motion to reconsider under Mississippi House rules, the Daily Journal reports. Bailey said he has no intention of letting the bill come to a vote before the legislative session ends because proponents of the bill treated him disrespectfully (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/12).

Rep. Brandon Jones (D), who opposes the bill, said, "If you really care about young people making good choices, you want them to seek out counsel from parents, teachers, doctors, the clergy." He added, "This bill is so broad that it would discourage young people from seeking out that counsel." Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R), primary author of the bill, said, "The intent of the bill is to require the reporting of child rape and abortions, and that already is in law" (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 4/13).

The petition says that for the rest of the 2008 session, House Speaker Billy McCoy (D) would have to allow any House member the ability to table a motion to reconsider (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/12). A vote on the petition is scheduled for Wednesday. The petition will require a three-fifths majority to pass, the Daily Journal reports (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 4/13).