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Missouri Senate committee considers additional abortion restrictions

David Sater
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A state Senate Committee is weighing more restrictions to abortion services in Missouri. 

Testimony was heard today on a bill (SB802) that would prohibit abortions solely on the basis of prenatal screenings for Down syndrome.

The sponsor, Sen. David Sater, R-Barry County, says the medical data acquired from screenings are sometimes inaccurate and, regardless of the results, all children deserve life.

“Ending someone’s life simply because they are different or might have Down syndrome is discrimination, there is no other way to look at it,” said Sater, when he introduced the bill.

Testimony that followed in support urged lawmakers to consider the bonds made between parent and child after birth and the degree of autonomy many adults with Down syndrome achieve. 

Ryan Gallagher, father of a 2-year-old girl with Down syndrome, explained why he supports the abortion ban, “I wish every family would have an opportunity to really learn the truth about their baby with Down syndrome, because your perspective changes once you get to know your baby. You see beyond that diagnosis.”

Opponents say the government has no place intervening in women’s reproductive health decisions. 

Dr. Kathryn Stambough from Washington University testified against the bill, citing her experience counseling parents-to-be after receiving prenatal screenings.

“I fear the exploitation of these families is driven by ideologic differences on women’s reproductive rights and not true scientific concern. The right to terminate a pregnancy is not up for debate today. That has already been upheld in a higher court of law. However, what is being decided is whether to discriminate against women and their families who receive the prenatal diagnosis of Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome.”

Earlier in the committee hearing,  Sater closed his remarks on a bill about child guardianships (SB801) by saying, “I think we all know that the government is not a very good parent.” 

M’Evie Mead, who is state director of organizing for Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri, referenced  that statement in her opposition testimony to Sater’s bill to restrict abortion rights based on pre-natal diagnosis, “With this legislation, government is taking the ultimate parental role by taking this decision away.”

The committee will vote on that abortion ban at a later date, but sent through to the Senate another bill relating to abortion procedures. 

That bill (SB644), sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, requires annual inspections of abortion clinics, bars fetal tissue donation, tightens aborted tissue reports and modifies physician privileges.

As predicted, abortion continues to be at the forefront of many legislators’ agendas this session.