House adopts new abortion rules

Monday, April 21, 2008 | 8:42 p.m. CDT; updated 11:34 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri doctors would be forced to give women seeking an abortion pertinent information 24 hours before the procedure if a bill that passed through the state House on Monday also gains Senate approval.

The bill also would require doctors to offer a woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus and feel the fetus’ heartbeat without cost to her. In addition, it would make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion and would steepen criminal penalties for any criminal conduct associated with the coercion of an abortion.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the House 113-33 and needs the approval of the Senate and the governor’s signature to become law.

Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said he proposed the bill to allow for a more informed decision-making process regarding abortion. Onder said he thinks the bill would “give the state one of the stronger informed consent laws in the country.”

The state currently has a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion in Missouri. This legislation would mandate that the doctor performing the abortion provide information to the woman, including the risks associated with abortions and the characteristics of the fetus she’s carrying. The woman receiving the information would have the option of refusing it.

Medical offices would have to “prominently display” contact information for alternatives to abortion and a notice warning against the coercion of abortions.

Detractors such as Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, said the bill does very little to protect women and is another example of the mostly male legislature telling a woman what she can do with her body.

“We are simply again seeing someone use this issue for very selfish political reasons,” Talboy said. “(The bill’s supporters) are trying to make a wedge issue out of limiting women’s reproductive freedom.”

Rep. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Jackson County, said the state should do more to assist young mothers through child care assistance after taking so much time trying to persuade women to have babies.

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