Missouri Senate gives initial approval to anti-abortion bill

Friday, September 9, 2005

The bill needs another Senate vote to move to the House, which also must approve it to send the bill to the governor.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Legislators moved closer Thursday to achieving the goal of their special session as the Senate gave initial approval to an anti-abortion measure.

The bill would allow parents to sue people who help their minor daughters get abortions without their consent. It also would impose new requirements upon abortion doctors.

The bill needs another Senate vote -- expected late Thursday -- to move to the House, which also must approve it to send the measure to the governor. A House committee endorsed its version of the legislation a day earlier.

Gov. Matt Blunt called the session on anti-abortion legislation after the Legislature's anti-abortion majority failed to pass anything during the regular session that ended in May. Blunt and some researchers had concerns that language in that legislation would have harmed stem cell research in the state.

Special session

The special session deals with only a few abortion provisions, and legislative leaders vowed not to let this measure get caught up in a stem cell debate. Lawmakers also plan to make technical fixes to various other bills.

Debate on the abortion measure began around 10:30 a.m. Several Democrats who support abortion rights talked about the bill, delaying a vote until after 6 p.m. They offered various amendments, some of which legislative leaders quickly tossed out as beyond the scope of the special session's purpose, and others that the Senate rejected.

Supporters say the legislation is aimed at people who help teens obtain abortions at a clinic in Illinois, where there is no parental consent law.

"We've given parents a right in Missouri that is nullified by the state of Illinois," said Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, who is handling the Senate bill.

But Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, said the bill doesn't consider some awful situations teens may face, and that many girls may be scared to face a judge under the system set up for when they seek an abortion without acquiring their parents' approval.

"You're standing there acting like God. You do not know the circumstances," Bray said to Loudon.

Lise Saffran of Columbia said she mentors teen mothers and worries that any guidance or conversation she has with a young woman who finds herself pregnant could open her up to a lawsuit.

"Consider the kind of chilling effect a law like this might have," she said. "You don't frighten away the helpers in your community with the threat of civil lawsuits."

Some ministers also have said the provision could stifle the clergy's ability to counsel young pregnant women.

But Loudon called that a ridiculous assertion, and anti-abortion groups said the provisions are necessary.

The bill "will protect women, will protect parental rights and we believe it will save many lives," said Susan Klein, of Missouri Right to Life.

Requirements of doctors

Another provision in the bill would require doctors who perform abortions to have clinical privileges at a hospital providing obstetrical or gynecological care within 30 miles of where the abortion takes place.

The Springfield Health Care Center has said that provision could affect its business, because the doctor who performs abortions at the center has privileges at several hospitals, but none are within a 30-mile radius.

Some Democrats advocated access to contraception and education as the best way to reduce abortions.

A bill by Bray would require the state to provide funding for family planning services, ensure that school districts follow state law in teaching sex education and make emergency contraception available to rape victims in hospitals.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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