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Missouri Lawmakers Send Anti-Abortion Bill To Governor’s Desk, Joining Other GOP States In Passage

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BREAKING: Missouri’s Republican-controlled House passed legislation banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, sending the bill to Gov. Mike Parson (R).

The House passed an emergency clause, meaning the abortion law will go into effect as soon as the governor signs it, according to Trevor Fox, with Missouri House communications. Without the clause, the bill wouldn’t have gone into effect until end of August.

The Missouri legislation comes after Alabama’s governor signed a bill Wednesday making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Once enacted, the law will only kick in if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Planned Parenthood was assuring women in the state that facilities that provide abortions are still open in Missouri and neighboring Illinois.

If the courts block the eight-week ban, the bill has built-in concessions of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or pregnancy.

Here are some of the provisions of the bill:

  • The measure bans all abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
  • If the courts do now allow the ban at eight weeks, there is a series of other limits that would go into effect: at 14 weeks, at 18 weeks and at 20 weeks.
  • The bill includes a “trigger” mechanism that would ban abortion in Missouri if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned.
  • The measure prohibits selective abortions based on sex, race or Down Syndrome.
  • It requires that both parents provide written consent for a minor to have an abortion.
  • In-state abortion facilities must hand out required printed materials when the patient is from out of state.

This story will be updated.


Missouri lawmakers have passed a strict antiabortion bill that will criminalize the procedure at eight weeks of pregnancy, following several other conservative states that have approved similar measures.

Missouri’s Republican-controlled House voted 110 to 44 on Friday to pass the bill and send it to Republican Gov. Mike Parson for his approval. Parson, who has vowed to make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country,” is expected to sign it into law.

HB 126, known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” would ban abortions before many women know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The vote came just hours before the state’s legislative session was set to end, and was preceded by an emotional debate in the House, where some lawmakers recounted their own experiences with abortion. Aside from some outbursts from spectators in the gallery and quiet sobbing at times that appeared to come from the House floor, the chamber was largely silent during the arguments about the bill.

Supporters said the bill would protect unborn children’s lives, but opponents argued it would also put the mothers’ lives at risk, forcing them to either suffer or go underground to seek illegal and unsafe procedures.

“We will be killing women with this bill,” Rep. Sarah Unsicker, a Democrat from the St. Louis suburbs, said before the vote.

But the Republican House speaker, Elijah Haahr, celebrated the passing of the bill.

“Today, the Missouri House stood for the unborn,” the speaker said in a statement.

…The Missouri House made the statement that in Missouri, we believe an unborn child is a human life worth protecting,” he added. “We value the life of every Missourian and renewed that commitment all session. In passing this bill, we took a powerful step forward to show this includes the unborn. Our children will remember the moral, not political, vote members took today to protect the voice to the unborn.”

[Graphic: The widening gap in abortion laws across the U.S.]

Missouri’s Senate had approved the bill early Thursday amid an apparent race among conservative states to get the Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with provisions for protecting women’s health and prenatal life. Similar legislation passed in Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio — and Alabama’s governor on Wednesday signed the nation’s most-restrictive abortion ban into law. The Alabama law makes it illegal for a woman to have an abortion at six weeks of pregnancy.

[Haven’t been following the abortion ban news? Here’s everything you need to know.]

If Missouri’s HB 126 is signed into law, as expected, it will make it illegal for a woman to get an abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy and provide no exceptions for rape or incest — only for medical emergencies.

The legislation defines a medical emergency as “a condition which, based on reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert the death of the pregnant woman or for which a delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

Doctors who violate such a law would face a Class B felony, punishable by five to 15 years in prison, as well as suspension or revocation of his or her professional license, according to the bill.

[States racing to overturn Roe v. Wade look to a Supreme Court that prefers gradual change]

The Missouri governor has showed strong support for the bill, tweeting before the votes: “Thanks to leaders in the House and Senate, we are one vote away from passing one of the strongest #ProLife bills in the country — standing for life, protecting women’s health, and advocating for the unborn.”

Following the House vote, the Missouri GOP thanked lawmakers who “voted to protect the lives of the unborn.”

“Missouri just passed the strongest, most comprehensive pro-life bill in the country,” the party announced on Twitter. “This bill was designed to withstand a legal challenge, not to attract one.”

Planned Parenthood vowed on Twitter: “We. Will. Not. Stop. Fighting.”

Missouri Democrats called the bill “far too extreme.”

“In their quest to join the legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the extremist majority is putting $7 billion in healthcare dollars at risk for the most vulnerable Missourians, including children in parts of the state with higher infant mortality rates than in developing countries,” the group said in a statement. “This vote demonstrates in stark terms the importance of voting for candidates that will focus on policies that improve health outcomes rather than go backwards.”

(Reporting by Washington Post, NBC News, and CNN)

Abortion

St. Louis Abortion Clinic To Defy Missouri, Refuse To Perform Pelvic Exam

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s only abortion clinic, already facing the threat of losing its license, says it will defy the state by refusing to perform a required pelvic examination days before an abortion.


Calling the exam requirement “disrespectful and dehumanizing,” a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman confirmed that as of Thursday the St. Louis clinic no longer performs it during a consultation at least 72 hours before an abortion. Doctors do perform a pelvic exam at the time of the procedure.

Plans to drop the preliminary pelvic exam were first reported by CBS News.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore said the exam is not required by state law but is an intrusive health department regulation. The health department didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment but said earlier this month that the pelvic exam at the time of consultation is required by law.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an abortion provider at the clinic, said the decision to drop the preliminary exam was based partly on feedback from patients.

“We believe continuing to force an additional invasive and uncomfortable vaginal exam on patients at least three days before her abortion procedure, when it is not medically indicated, and when she will have the identical exam on the day of the abortion procedure, is not patient-centered; it is disrespectful and dehumanizing,” McNicholas said in a statement.

The health department let the clinic’s license lapse as of May 31, but a judge’s order has kept it open and allowed abortions to continue.

Judge Michael Stelzer said the state can’t simply let the license lapse but must decide whether to deny it or renew it. The state’s decision could be announced Friday at a court hearing in St. Louis.

Health department officials have cited concerns at the clinic, including that three “failed abortions” there required additional surgeries and another led to life-threatening complications for the mother, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing a now-sealed court filing.

Should the St. Louis facility close, Missouri would be the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974, the year after the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, according to Planned Parenthood.

The licensing fight in St. Louis comes as lawmakers in Missouri and other conservative states have passed new restrictions that take aim at Roe. Abortion opponents, emboldened by new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, hope federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in Roe.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation on May 24 to ban abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest. Efforts to put the new law to a public vote are tied up in court.

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Missouri’s Only Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open, Judge Rules

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has issued an order allowing Missouri’s only abortion clinic to continue providing the service.


St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer ruled Friday, just hours before the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic’s license to perform abortions was set to expire. He issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Missouri from allowing the license to lapse.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had declined to renew the license. It cited concerns with “failed abortions,” compromised patient safety and legal violations at the clinic. Agency officials also wanted to interview additional physicians at the clinic.

Planned Parenthood officials had said that if the license lapsed, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

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As Missouri’s Last Abortion Provider Nears Closing, Neighboring Clinics Prepare

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With hours to go before the expiration of a state license that allows a Planned Parenthood health center in Missouri to perform abortions, clinics in neighboring states say they’re preparing for an influx of additional patients.


“No one one knows what’s gonna happen in the next day or two, but we have to be ready for this clinic to be closed, and for patients to have nowhere else to go,” said Dr. Erin King, who runs a health center in Illinois across the river from the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

King said her facility, the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., has been hiring additional doctors and medical support staff for more than a year in preparation for the possibility that abortion could be restricted in Missouri. Illinois is one of several states considering legislation to expand abortion rights as states including Missouri work in the opposite direction, passing laws banning the procedure in the early stages of pregnancy.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson last week signed a law criminalizing most abortions after eight weeks. That law has yet to take effect, but the dispute between Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services over regulatory enforcement is threatening to shut down abortion services at Missouri’s last remaining clinic.

Parson said this week that Missouri health regulators have safety concerns about the clinic. Planned Parenthood officials say they’ve done all they can to comply, and accuse the state of arbitrarily enforcing regulations for political reasons. The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, and Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit asking for a restraining order to prevent the center from being forced to stop offering the procedure.

Providers like King in neighboring states say they’re watching the situation and expecting to take additional patients from Missouri.

“[This] is happening much more quickly than any of us anticipated, so we’re really scrambling” to communicate with patients and open up additional appointments for abortions in the coming days, King said.

Michele Landeau of Gateway Women’s Access Fund, which helps Missouri women pay for abortions, said her organization is looking at ways to connect patients with clinics outside the state and help arrange for transportation, childcare, and other needs.

“People are confused, and they’re scared, and it’s pretty chaotic-feeling right now,” Landeau said.

Abortion providers in other neighboring states said they’re expecting additional patients from Missouri, and planning accordingly.

“We will do our very best to serve any women from Missouri that need to see us,” said Rebecca Terrell of CHOICES health center in Memphis, Tenn. “It may be that we have to add hours; we may have to open on a Saturday; we may have to make some changes, but we will make sure that everybody gets seen.”

In Wichita, Kansas, Julie Burkhart of the Trust Women clinic, said she would expect to see more patients from central, southern, and western Missouri if the St. Louis facility stops providing abortions. She said her facility might look at expanding its hours, but it would take time to hire, train, and license new staff members.

Abortion rights opponents have praised Missouri regulators’ scrutiny of the St. Louis clinic.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said ending abortion services there “would be good news for health and safety.”

If the St. Louis clinic loses its license, some hospitals in the state could still offer the procedure, primarily for medical emergencies, Planned Parenthood officials say.

(Reporting by NPR)

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