Abortion bill ties up Missouri Senate

Monday, March 23, 2009 | 10:46 p.m. CDT; updated 11:35 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 23, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Critics of legislation making it a crime to coerce someone in Missouri to have an abortion and requiring that more information be offered to women seeking abortions tied up the state Senate into the night Monday.

Opponents took the floor in the afternoon and filibustered for more than five hours before debate was halted. The measure did not come to a vote.

The legislation would create a specific crime of bullying women and teens into terminating their pregnancies. The bill would require a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours before the procedure and require the doctor to give her a chance during that time to view an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Missouri lawmakers have debated several abortion measures this session. The House earlier this month approved a nearly identical bill dealing with "coerced" abortions after a highly contentious and emotional debate.

Bray says bill provisions 'presume women are stupid'

Senate opponents contend that several of the bill's provisions are unworkable and that others, as Sen. Joan Bray put it, "presume women are stupid."

"You're trying to force women to have babies they don't want," said Bray, D-St. Louis.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said that because abortion is legal in Missouri, she does not understand the mechanics of criminalizing attempts to urge another to do something that is permitted.

Sponsoring Sen. Rob Mayer said the legislation is designed to protect women and ensure they have enough information to make their decision.

"My intention is to make certain through this legislation that women are fully informed and understand the procedure they're about to undergo and the consequences that come with that procedure," said Mayer, R-Dexter.

Much of the debate Monday featured Democrats talking to each other, criticizing the legislation. Others questioned why Senate leaders did not devote more time toward an economic development package backed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Women would have to be told of risks, alternatives

Other provisions of the bill would require that women be informed orally and in writing of the potential risks of having an abortion and be informed of possible alternatives.

Physicians also would be required to hand a pregnant woman a state-created information packet that includes color photographs showing fetus development and the statement: "It is the public policy of the state of Missouri that the life of each human being begins at conception, and that unborn children have protectable interest in life, health, and well-being."

Plus, women considering abortions would need to be offered an anesthetic for fetuses after 22 weeks and told that they have the necessary anatomical structures to feel pain and receive anesthesia during prenatal surgery.

The ban on coercing someone to have an abortion targets employers who threaten to fire a woman or reduce her pay or those who threaten to take away college scholarships if she doesn't have an abortion could face up to one year in jail. And those who coerce someone to have an abortion through a separate crime — such as stalking or domestic assault — would have their prison sentences increased.

Doctors who perform an abortion when they know a woman has been coerced could be charged with a felony and face up to seven years in prison.



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