Missouri House committee passes amended version of Senate abortion bill
Unsatisfied with the extent of the Senate’s new proposed abortion restrictions, a Missouri House committee restored some provisions Monday, including one that gives the attorney general the ability to enforce any abortion law at any time.
Republicans on the House Committee for Children and Families said they added back the provisions, which had been stripped from the bill the Senate passed last week as a means of protecting against Democratic filibusters, because they didn't want to be a rubber stamp for the Senate.
The full House will meet Tuesday to vote on the amended bill, which will return to the Senate. Committee chairwoman Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, said she wasn’t concerned about what the upper chamber will do later in the week.
“We made what the Senate sent to us look more like our House bills, (and) that’s our job,” she said. “What the Senate does over there is up to them.”
She also said House members spent several hours last week vetting four bills of their own and felt that not including them in the final product would be a waste of that time.
Bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester was unavailable for comment Monday.
The restored language gives the state’s attorney general sole authority to enforce abortion laws in Missouri; the Senate’s version would have given local prosecutors the chance to do so first.
The House committee on Children and Families also restored a provision making it a crime for an abortion clinic to interfere with emergency medical personnel.
The House committee kept the Senate’s provisions that would require annual, unannounced inspection of abortion clinics and would overturn a St. Louis ordinance that protects women from housing and job discrimination regardless of whether they’ve had an abortion, are pregnant or use birth control.
Opponents of the restrictions had their say at the committee hearing, including Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN who performs abortions at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic.
"Every version of this bill is bad for Missouri,” she said. “What we saw today was the unfortunate reality of how health care policy in Missouri is being created.”
McNicholas also said if the bill becomes law in any form, it would violate a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas abortion law that required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The ruling prompted a federal judge in Kansas City to overturn a similar law in Missouri.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, strongly disagreed.
“The U.S. Supreme Court did not say that states can’t regulate abortion facilities at all, and there’s nothing in this bill which places an undue burden or substantial obstacle,” he said.
A protester with the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri sat in on the committee meeting dressed in a chicken suit — a response to a video posted on Facebook last week by Ash Grove Republican Rep. Mike Moon. The video showed him decapitating a live chicken, which he said he did to “get to the heart of the matter” about the need for lawmakers to pass laws that reduce the number of abortions in Missouri.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport