Missouri House passes new abortion regulations

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state House passed legislation Monday that would subject abortion clinics to more stringent regulations, a move critics claim would make it harder for women to get abortions in Missouri.

The overwhelming 101-48 House vote came on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court delivered another victory for abortion opponents, overturning appeals court decisions that had struck down Missouri and Virginia laws banning a certain late-term abortion procedure.

The Supreme Court ordered appellate courts to reconsider the state laws in light of its own ruling last week upholding a federal law prohibiting what opponents call partial-birth abortion.

Missouri Right to Life said the federal law used similar language as the 1999 Missouri law, which was placed on hold by a federal judge the day after the legislature enacted it by overriding a gubernatorial veto.

"We always knew the ban on partial-birth abortion was constitutional," Missouri Right to Life lobbyist Susan Klein said.

In response to the Supreme Court's order, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday to lift its injunction against the state's law. That would allow it to take effect immediately.

Missouri has a strong pro-life majority in the Legislature, which is pushing a several-prong bill that increases state oversight of abortion providers and bans them from teaching or distributing materials for school sex education courses.

House passage of the legislation sends it to the Senate, where a similar bill is pending.

The bill would designate facilities that perform any second- or third-trimester or more than five first-trimester abortions a month as "ambulatory surgical centers," mak them subject to increased regulation from the Department of Health and Senior Services.

But the effect could be to end abortions at Columbia and Kansas City clinics, leaving a St. Louis facility as the only Planned Parenthood site still eligible to provide abortions, said Paula Gianino, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

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