Abortion regulations pass through Senate committee

Monday, February 22, 2010 | 10:36 p.m. CST; updated 10:46 p.m. CST, Monday, February 22, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate committee voted Monday to move forward two abortion bills.

One bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, requires abortion providers to offer a woman an ultrasound of her fetus at least 24 hours prior to an abortion. He said at a hearing last week that seeing a photograph of the fetus and hearing its heartbeat would deter women from getting an abortion.

"The most effective way to protect children and keep women from being wounded for life is to ensure that women facing unplanned pregnancies have received factual information concerning their decision," he said last week.

Opponents of the bill said at the hearing that an ultrasound would be ineffective. Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, voted against the bill, saying abortion providers in the state already do everything the bill would require. Justus said additional requirements to Missouri's informed consent law would not reduce the number of abortions in the state. Legislative staff said 11,580 abortions took place in Missouri in 2008.

"At this point they are regulating abortion just for the sake of regulating abortion," Justus said Monday after the vote.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, witnesses in favor of the bill testified to wishing they'd been given the opportunity to see their fetus before having an abortion.

Amy Knudsen, who said she had an abortion when she was 14, testified that she wouldn't have had the abortion if she'd seen photos before the procedure. She said she "would have seen a baby, no doubt about it."

The other bill passed out of committee Monday would require physicians to collect information from women on why they sought an abortion, such as social, medical or economic factors. Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Louis County, said it would allow lawmakers to examine more information as to why women have abortions.

"Folks on both sides of the debate believe we need to reduce abortions," he said last week.

Justus voted against the bill, saying it would be needless because abortion providers already gather most of the information required in the legislation.

"I think all it is meant to do is probably create some shame for a woman who is facing the worst decision she's ever had to face in her life," she said.

The bills will go to the Rules Committee, which will decide if the bills are discussed on the Senate floor.

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