House passes bill adding new restrictions on abortion

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's male-dominated House of Representatives heard personal stories of rape from two female colleagues Tuesday before approving legislation to place new restrictions on abortions.

The legislation passed the state's lower chamber by an overwhelming 113-37 margin.

Under the bill, abortion providers would be required to give patients information about alternatives to ending a pregnancy and locations where a patient could receive an ultrasound.

The bill would also make it a crime to coerce someone into having an abortion and require abortion providers to contact a prosecuting attorney before performing an abortion on a patient under the age of 18.

During the debate, Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, recounted the story of a childhood friend who was raped by the girl's biological father. The friend was impregnated more than once, Riddle said, and then taken to have the pregnancy aborted.

"She thought when she got there, 'Finally, someone will see what's happening to me, and this will stop,'" Riddle said. "What her father coerced her into saying, manipulated her into saying, was that she had been to a party and a boy had gotten her pregnant.

"They believed her because she was fearful of her father. The abuser, the rapist, gave her an abortion and sent her back home so he could continue the abuse. And that's something that happens. "

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, talked about her experience as a victim of date rape and what the proposal would have meant in her circumstances.

"If this bill became law, I would have been deemed incompetent by the state to make my own reproductive health choices had I become pregnant," Newman said. 

"I find that greatly insulting. It's clear this is a political statement, with this bill being heard today on the floor."

The bill passed by the House combined two pieces of legislation, one sponsored by Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Jackson County, and the other by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon.

Davis described the provision requiring doctors to contact a prosecuting attorney and to keep a tissue sample for DNA testing as an "enhancement" over similar legislation introduced during the last two legislative sessions.

The DNA samples would provide "air-tight" evidence, Davis said, for the prosecution of cases where children are victims of rape.

Rep. Jill Schupp, R-St. Louis County, however, questioned having the provision apply to women from ages 14 to 18.

"Just because a young girl has sex with a young man does not mean he or she is a criminal," Schupp said.

The 113 yea votes included 30 Democrats; 36 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield, voted against the bill.

Columbia-area Democrats Chris Kelly and Mary Still both voted against the bill.

Still said she saw the legislation as an attempt to "intimidate and bully women."

"He might as well say, 'let's hang these women up by their heels for an hour before this procedure begins,'" Still said, referring to Pratt.

Earlier, Pratt said that "if you vote against this bill, you are protecting rapists."

During his comments, Kelly questioned the rhetoric and tone of the debate, as well as the constitutionality of the legislation.

"I'm ashamed of the body today," he said.

Davis said the bill would result in new dignity and respect for women.

"I believe this bill goes a long way to finding real answers, real solutions," she said. "Missouri women deserve better."

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peggy king March 31, 2010 | 8:05 a.m.

"new respect and dignity"...Bull. This is the continuation of efforts to lessen a woman's ability to make her own decisions about her body and her medical care. It's debasing and belittling to women to assume they are unable to make these decisions by themselves without our esteemed legislature putting their nose in her business. We will never stop a situation like that decribed regarding the father raping his daughter by making it harder to get an abortion. A medical professional's suspicion of abuse of a child are are supposed to be reported already! If they aren't being reported - enforce the law! STAY OUT OF OUR MEDICAL DECISIONS.

(Report Comment)
Kate Long March 31, 2010 | 11:35 a.m.

Yes, why don't we try to find ways to better inforce the laws we already have instead of making new ones to not enforce either.

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