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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Miss. House Speaker To Appoint Panel To Study Bill Regulating Abortions for Minors

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Miss. House Speaker To Appoint Panel To Study Bill Regulating Abortions for Minors
[April 18, 2008]

Mississippi House Speaker Billy McCoy (D) on Wednesday announced that he will appoint a "diverse group" of House members to study a Senate-approved bill (HB 520) that would restrict abortions for minors, which is currently held up in a House committee, the AP/Biloxi Sun Herald reports. McCoy said the bill, as well as other antiabortion-related legislation, will be considered in 2009. According to the AP/Sun Herald, McCoy took the step as a way to head off a potentially divisive battle with conservatives that threatened his leadership (Wagster Pettus, AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/16).

The House had recently voted 79-41 to pass HB 520, 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. Nine Mississippi House members last week filed a petition to temporarily change the rule (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

The legislation, which would add new restrictions to abortion law in a state that already has some of the most restrictive laws regulating the procedure in the U.S., was originally aimed at penalizing people who falsely reported child abuse, the AP/Sun Herald reports. The Senate amended the bill to add eight pages of antiabortion provisions (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/16). The bill would 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. Some lawmakers have said the reporting provision would require adults who supervise children to report to local and state authorities if they know two underage teens are engaging in sexual activity (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Bailey said he will not bring the bill up before the session ends this weekend, which will kill the bill. Rep. Philip Gunn (R), who supported the rule change, said that if Republicans had pushed forward with the fight over the rule change, they might have lost the procedural fight and the antiabortion bill would have died regardless. "But this way we can be sure that over the summer we'll sit down and hammer out an acceptable piece of legislation," Gunn said, adding, "And we have a commitment that that legislation will be brought forward next year" (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 4/16).