Missouri legislators pass — then reverse — bill to outlaw chemical abortions

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 | 7:52 p.m. CDT; updated 5:28 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — For the second year in a row, Missouri legislators voted for a bill that included a surprise provision.

A provision to outlaw chemical abortions was slipped into a bill that was unanimously passed through the state Senate on Tuesday. But it was not supposed to be there, so said the bill’s sponsor who got the Senate to reverse its action, only after reporters began to raise questions.

The Missouri legislature made a similar mistake last year when it voted to legalize midwifery in a provision snuck into the final Senate version of a bill that was passed and signed by the governor.

This time, the unadvertised provision was caught before it went to the governor. It was reconsidered hours later, after reporters caught the provision and asked senators about it.

Last year, Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, managed to slip midwifery legalization into a health insurance bill by using nontraditional terms that went undetected. The amendment later was thrown out by a Cole County judge.

Unlike Loudon’s deliberate effort, this time legislators vow the language against the abortion pill was an honest mistake.

“It wasn’t supposed to be in there,” said Sen. Joan Bray D-St. Louis County. She said that it was just slipped in and there was no intention to deceive the Senate.

Sen. Timothy Green, D-St. Louis County, said that he thinks that the blame goes to the staff. He said the bill sponsor was simply handed the wrong version of the bill and that it was a common mistake.

That kind of clerical mistake brought nationwide attention to Missouri’s legislature in 1985 when lawmakers accidentally repealed the law against the crime of rape — an action lawmakers also blamed on their staff.

The main focus of this year’s bill is to toughen regulation of drugs that can be used for production of methamphetamine. Earlier this month, the state House of Representatives tacked on a provision to the bill to ban the drug used for chemical abortions.

Although the Senate did not intend to approve that ban, it did have strong support in the House.

“I’m a pro-life Democrat and a firm believer in maintaining the life of a fetus,” said the amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Ray Salva, D-Jackson County.

The amendment added by the House would have made mifepristone, also known as RU-486, a schedule I drug. Other schedule I drugs include marijuana, opium and morphine.

In the House, the provision to ban the drug sparked an extended debate. In the Senate, there was no similar debate because members did not realize it was in the bill, they said.

Tuesday afternoon, the Senate reversed its earlier approval of the bill and re-passed a version without the controversial section on RU-486.

The measure now goes back to the House which can accept the Senate version or demand a House-Senate conference committee.

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