Senate bill seeks more disclosure on abortions

Thursday, February 13, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Information about women's reasons for having abortions could be reported to the state under a bill that opponents argue would be an invasion of privacy.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Gross, also would require physicians who perform abortions to provide more specific information about the procedure used.

Since the mid-1970s, Missouri has required certain information about abortions to be reported to the state, such as the name of the abortion provider, the date of abortion and the patient's age, race, marital status and education level.

At a committee hearing Wednesday, supporters of the bill, including several anti-abortion groups, said data on the reasons for abortions would help lawmakers and state officials make more informed decisions about the issue.

Gross, R-St. Charles, said his bill would require abortion providers to ask women why they are seeking an abortion.

But women would not be required to respond, and names of those receiving abortions would remain confidential.

"It's an attempt to get a little more information out there about abortions," said Gross, an abortion opponent. "It will make our debates a little more informative."

Samuel Lee, a lobbyist for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Missouri, told the Senate health committee that the additional information could be used by both sides of the abortion debate.

"It would be vital to have this information," Lee said. "It would be helpful to know what we could do to help" women considering abortions.

The bill drew a strong response from abortion rights supporters.

"I think it's going to be hard to assure the patient about confidentiality," said Michelle Collins, administrator of Springfield Healthcare, which provides abortions.

Marsha Richeson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said asking women their reasons for abortion won't yield any new information.

"The reasons for women to have abortions haven't changed in 30 years, and often they have many reasons," Richeson said. "This bill would constitute a gross invasion of privacy."

Carolyn Sullivan, executive director of the abortion rights group Missouri NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the bill also would raise questions about doctor-patient confidentiality.

"This is the government telling the doctor how to be a doctor," Sullivan said.

Gross said his bill would strengthen current laws that protect the identities of women who have abortions. The bill would increase the penalty for violating the confidentiality of abortion records, reports, and documents from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The committee did not vote on the bill.


Abortion bill is SB110 (Gross).

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