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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Missouri House Preliminarily Approves Omnibus Antiabortion Bill

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Missouri House Preliminarily Approves Omnibus Antiabortion Bill
[April 17, 2008]

The Missouri House on Tuesday voted 108-33 to preliminarily approve a bill (HB 1831) that includes multiple restrictions on abortion rights, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The bill needs another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Onder (R), would require abortion providers to give a woman seeking an abortion the option of seeing an ultrasound of her fetus, as well as instruct her about potential health risks and the option of giving her fetus anesthesia. A woman would need to certify in writing that she was provided the required materials and that she voluntarily gave her "informed consent" to have the procedure, the AP/Post-Dispatch.

The measure also would require physicians and clinics that perform the procedure to post several signs that state: "There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and to assist you and your child after your child is born." The signs would also state, "The state of Missouri encourages you to contact those agencies before making a final decision about abortion."

The measure also would allow felony charges to be filed against physicians who perform an abortion when they suspect the woman has been coerced. The charges would carry a punishment of up to seven years in prison. People who threaten to fire or take away a college scholarship from a pregnant woman unless she has an abortion could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000, according to the legislation. Those who abuse or threaten a pregnant woman to influence her to have an abortion could be charged with additional crimes with enhanced penalties, the AP/Post-Dispatch reports.


This bill "is in favor of giving women choice," Rep. Cynthia Davis (R) said, adding, "This is not arm-twisting women into irreversible surgery. This is about freely making decisions for yourself and not bullying someone into the doctor's office." Onder said the bill is designed to make abortion safe, rare and legal but also "fully informed and uncoerced."

Some Democratic opponents said Republicans were playing politics and trying to "drum up" votes in an election year, the AP/Post-Dispatch reports. Republican lawmakers "don't have the guts to do what they really want to do, and that's to make a criminal out of the woman who's sitting in the doctor's office," Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D) said. Some Democratic lawmakers argued that the criminal penalties for physicians could make it harder for rape survivors to get health care if they become pregnant. "Rape is coercion," Rep. Beth Low (D), said, adding, "If I become pregnant from a rape, the primary reason that I'm seeking an abortion is coercion" (Blank, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/16).