This legislative session alone, Missouri has between 27 and 32 pieces of anti-abortion legislation, most of which will not see daylight. However, one bill has garnered national attention and is a potential embarrassment for Missouri.
The press is focused on the primary rule change in the bill — to extend the waiting period before the procedure from 24 to 72 hours.
Introduced by Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, the bill would also require the Department of Health to produce a video that must be shown to the woman by the physician performing the procedure. Similar legislation has been brought to the Senate floor by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville.
The first portion of the proposed legislation should have no fiscal impact; the second does but has no funding mechanism to produce the videos. Not included in either bill is an exception for rape, something the courts have frowned upon in the past.
The situation is clear from the outset. Our legislature is two-thirds Republican, and either bill could have a veto-proof majority if passed. The Democrats just do not have the political strength to force any change to the proposed law.
Our state has already made it nearly impossible for a woman to have an abortion, even in the case of rape, by placing undue requirements on women’s health clinics and requiring a 24-hour waiting period.
With as many as 32 bills introduced (27 when combined), Missouri has introduced more anti-abortion laws this year than any other state.
But is the issue also a First Amendment argument for separation of church and state?
The problem is defining when life begins — at conception, when the unborn is viable outside the womb or, as suggested by some, before conception.
Though these are both medical and philosophical arguments, the medical aspect is routinely ignored by conservatives in the state legislature in favor of the religious arguments about when life begins.
We are mostly in agreement that late-term abortions should not happen, though there could be the rare case involving the life of the mother versus the life of the unborn. We know that with modern science, a child born during this period can sometimes be viable and live a long life. Sometimes not.
Most of the women I have talked with about abortion — and I have spoken with more than a few — seem to agree that if the decision to have an abortion because of rape or incest does not change, whether the waiting period is 24 hours or 72 hours, why prolong the agony?
It is also generally agreed that any anti-abortion legislation is designed to attract support from a very specific constituency, the religious right. One needs only to drive down Providence Road past the Planned Parenthood facility to find the evidence here.
In fact, some legislators have suggested that biblical law supports the idea that life begins at conception. I am out to find the biblical passage.
Additionally, I find the term pro-life to be a misnomer. The same men and women who claim a pro-life stance are against universal health care, assisting the working poor and other socially responsible legislation and, as a group, support the death penalty.
They scream about government intervention as a violation of personal freedom, yet they want the government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose.
Pro-life or pro-choice: I wonder which would be more pro-freedom.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.