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Missouri Republicans push several abortion proposals during second half of 2018 session

Abortion opponents stand on a street median as Planned Parenthood supporters march past the organization's Central West End clinic February 11, 2017.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Abortion opponents stand on a street median as Planned Parenthood supporters march past the organization's Central West End clinic February 11, 2017.

House Republicans are giving priority to bills that would place further restrictions on abortions as the 2018 session begins winding down.

First, the House on Tuesday passed legislation designed to banabortions on fetuses capable of feeling physical pain, which would in effect ban most of them at 20 weeks. GOP Rep. Keith Frederick of Rolla, who’s a medical doctor, spoke in favor of the bill.

“Those of us who really feel like life should be protected once it’s conceived, this doesn’t go far enough, but it does improve the situation so that we don’t have babies that are capable of feeling pain being treated in this manner,” he said. “It’s barbaric, really, in my mind.”

Democrats, including Peter Merideth of St. Louis, say they wished Republicans were as passionate about children once they’re outside the womb.

“When it comes to investing in the people that need our help and our support, when it comes to providing the resources for the mothers that have babies, we don’t show up,” he said. “We don’t hear these impassioned speeches or pass the legislation to make this happen; no, we do the opposite — we cut those resources.”

The bill passed 117-39 along party lines, and now goes to the Missouri Senate.

A House committee is considering four other proposals.

They include a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare fetuses at every stage of development to be persons, and in effect abolish abortion in Missouri. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.

“In the words of Dr. Frankenstein, ‘it’s alive!’ Moon testified. “This thing is a growing, developing, human baby, and some would say that we shouldn’t impose our morality on others — well, aren’t we allowing others to impose their morality on us from the other side? Seems like we are.”

This is the third year in a row Moon has sponsored the so-called “personhood” amendment. The measure passed the Missouri House in 2016 but fell short in the Senate.

House Bill 2589, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, comes as a response toa St. Louis Board of Aldermen bill that would call for a buffer zone for health care centers and prohibit certain activities, such as picketing, in front of facilities like Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in St. Louis. Rehder’s bill would prohibit buffer zones.

“We’ve seen 2,146 turnarounds right there in the driveway,” said Brian Westbrook with Coalition for Life in St. Louis, “Basically what the buffer zone is a 24 foot driveway with eight feet on each side, so it’s 40 feet where we cannot talk to women.”

Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, sponsor of HJR 53, which would grant "personhood" to fetuses at every stage of human development.

Charles Schlaepfer, a second-year medical student at Washington University in St. Louis, testified against the bill, stating that protesters had no way of differentiating between patients using Planned Parenthood for abortions or other health-related needs.

“Protesters can’t discriminate between patients accessing the facility for STI treatment, contraception, breast exams, HPV vaccinations, pap smears, or any other medical care that saves the lives of adult women,” said Schlaepfer, “We want patients to seek out health care and it’s not in the best interest of patients to feel discouraged from walking in the front door of their health care provider because there’s a protester there for a different reason.”

The House committee also heard a bill that would make it a felony to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without the parental consent already required by Missouri law.

Dr. Yvonne Treece, a gynecologist who practiced in St. Louis for 10 years expressed concern about young women’s right to privacy in relation to the bill.

“Privacy is extremely important to teenage women,” said Treece, “Abortion stands alone in the lack of confidentiality. Teenage women can receive contraceptive counseling, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy care, including pre-natal care, and consent to procedures on labor and delivering, including cesarean delivery.”

Others testified in favor of the bill, saying that if parental consent is required to give medicine to a minor at school, then parental consent should be required for abortion.

“I cannot understand how a parent’s permission is needed for a minor child to take an aspirin in school but not needed to have radical surgery that can be very harmful to her physical, psychology and emotional well being,” said the Rev. Richard Frankwith the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, introduced House Bill 1867, which would prohibit certain selective abortions relating to sex, race, or Down syndrome.

“My inspiration for this bill was a news story last summer. In Iceland, nearly 100 percent of babies that are screened for having Down syndrome are now aborted in that country,” said Dogan, “Here in the U.S., up to 90 percent Down syndrome diagnoses in the womb have led to abortion.”

Committee member Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, expressed concern about how doctors would determine the reason a woman was seeking an abortion.

No action was taken on the four bills heard Tuesday.

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