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Missouri House sends expanded abortion bill back to Senate

The final tally of the house vote during special session on June 20, 2017.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

A muchlarger abortion bill is on its way back to the Missouri Senate, after the House loaded it up with more regulations Tuesday.

It’s the exact opposite approach the upper chamber took last week, which removed several items as a means of keeping Democrats from blocking it via filibuster. The bill passed 110-38 along party lines after four hours of debate.

The House made a big tweak to Missouri’s 72-hour notification law: Only the doctor who is to perform an abortion would be required to inform the patient of the risks involved with the procedure. Current law allows for either the doctor or another “qualified professional” to explain the risks.

Other additions include giving the attorney general sole authority to enforce the state’s abortion laws, which the Senate had changed to give local prosecutors the right of first refusal. The House also restored two provisions that Gov. Eric Greitens wants: One makes it a crime for abortion clinic employees to interfere with emergency medical personnel, and the other requires clinics to have plans in place to handle complications arising from drug or chemically-induced abortions.

One provision the Senate had eliminated as part of its efforts to placate the Democrats, was restored: Requiring that fetal tissue be submitted to a pathologist within five business days. A House committee on Monday had shortened that time frame to 72 hours, but the full House restored the five-day limit.

The primary objectives of the bill remain unchanged: It would block the city of St. Louis from enforcing a local ordinance that protects women from job and housing discrimination based on whether they have an abortion, use birth control, or are pregnant. It would also require annual, unannounced inspection of abortion clinics.

“Just knowing that the clinics are meeting the regulations that we put into place throughout the state – is the clinic room indeed clean, are the supplies that they using current – many of those aspects are really important to all Missourians,” said Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton. “Whether you agree with abortion or not, providing quality health care is the utmost importance to us if you choose to have an abortion.”

Democrats argued the bill is designed to chip away at a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and invades privacy.

“The bottom line is none of you in this body has any right to interfere with our private medical decisions and our health care,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights. “Today, you and the governor are actually deciding reproductive health care — regardless of what my own physicians are telling me — you’re interfering with patient safety.”

Newman and other Democrats also decried the state spending money on another special session, as well as what they say will be the upcoming cost to the state from the inevitable lawsuit to challenge the bill after it’s signed into law.

House Speaker Todd Richardson disagreed. “I feel very optimistic that the state will prevail. This is obviously a highly litigated area of the law and will continue to be a highly litigated area of the law in every state, but I’m very confident that the state of Missouri, if this (proposed) law is challenged, will prevail.”

M’Evie Mead with the group Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri released a statement, which reads in part, “In addition to rolling back local nondiscrimination protections, (the bill) imposes additional, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers. The U.S. Supreme Court was clear and concise in its Whole Woman’s Health decision nearly a year ago: any medically unnecessary restrictions on safe, legal abortion … are unconstitutional.”

The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill on Thursday.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport



Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.