State legislature sends abortion bill to Holden

Friday, May 2, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill creating a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. Bob Holden. He has threatened to veto any "anti-choice" legislation, specifically citing the bill requiring pregnant women to wait 24 hours between a first consultation with a doctor and performance of an abortion.

"He believes decisions of this nature are best made by the woman in consultation with her doctor," Holden's spokeswoman, Mary Still, said Thursday.

"He does not believe these decisions are made lightly, and he believes this bill is an attempt to set up additional roadblocks to a woman's right to choose."

Fifteen states, including neighboring Kansas, currently have laws that require some kind of 24-hour waiting period for abortions.

Thursday's House and Senate votes in favor of the bill equaled or exceeded the two-thirds majorities needed to override a veto.

The Senate spent more than 9 1/2 hours debating the bill before passing it on a 23-6 vote shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday. Several hours later, the House approved it on a 116-34 vote.

A veto override requires votes from 109 House members and 23 senators.

Holden's decision on whether to sign the bill will not be affected by the possibility that a veto might be overridden, still said. The legislature meets each September to consider vetoes.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Susan Phillips of Kansas City and Republican Sen. John Cauthorn of Mexico, places other conditions on abortions.

One provision would require that a doctor and a woman sign a statement that the doctor had discussed all the risks and "situational" factors associated with an abortion.

As part of that statement, a woman would have to agree she had not been coerced into having an abortion.

But under an amendment added by Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, a woman would only have to sign the statement if she decided to have an abortion. If a woman opts for an abortion, she would have to wait 24 hours after meeting with the doctor and signing the consent document.

Supporters said they wanted to make sure women carefully considered all options before ending a pregnancy.

"I think that it offers women some protections in health care," Cauthorn said. "It gives women a time to reflect and think about what they want to do."

Abortion rights supporters in the Senate unsuccessfully sought to block the legislation through amendments and stall tactics. Among those were Sen. Joan Bray, who said the bill denigrated women.

"The message this bill sends is that women aren't smart enough to know what they are doing unless someone tries to talk them out of it first," said Bray, D-University City.

Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, a supporter of the legislation, said women should be given an opportunity to discuss an abortion with a physician because "if a woman is supported she will make a better decision."

The bill also would require any person performing an abortion to provide proof of medical malpractice insurance with coverage of at least $5,000. Failure to maintain medical malpractice insurance would be grounds under the bill for removing a medical license, certificate or permit.

The last time the Legislature overrode a governor's veto was in 1999, when Democratic majorities in the House and Senate overturned Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan's veto of legislation banning certain late term abortions.

Republicans now control the Legislature but also draw support from some Democrats on abortion bills.

"I hope the governor will respect the majorities in both chambers," said House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau. "If he doesn't, the Missouri Constitution provides a mechanism and that's the veto override."

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Abortion bill is HB156.

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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