Abortion bill cleared for House vote

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:42 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — An abortion bill with restrictions on minors cleared a committee hearing Monday and is expected to pass in the state House this week.

One of the legislation’s sponsors told the House’s Children Committee that clergy members should be sued if they help minors get abortions without parental consent.

“If you’re a clergy (member) that’s intending that these minors do all of that — skip the judicial option and go to Illinois ­— then you probably ought to be prosecuted or brought to court civilly,” Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, said Monday.

Loudon was responding to critics who charge his Senate-passed bill could lead to lawsuits against members of the clergy and others who counsel pregnant teens.

A provision in the bill allows suits to be brought against any person who helps a minor obtain an abortion without parental consent.

The bill was sparked by a policy at an abortion clinic in Illinois where parental consent is not required.

After a short hearing by the committee, the bill was approved, clearing the way for expected debate on Wednesday.

The committee made no changes in the version passed by the Senate after nearly 12 hours of debate on the Senate floor last Thursday.

The bill adds three changes to Missouri’s abortion restrictions:

  • A doctor performing an abortion would be required to have clinical privileges within 30 miles of a hospital of where the abortion takes place.
  • Civil legal action would be allowed against anyone who helps a minor to get an abortion without judicial or parental consent.
  • If parents refuse consent, the bill would restrict who can petition a court for a minor’s abortion.

Rep. Beth Low, D-Jackson County, and Rep. Jeanette Oxford, D-St. Louis, were the only committee members to voice opposition to the bill, which the House Children’s Committee approved for a vote by the full House 8-2.

“I’m afraid that rather than going through court procedures, girls will now be seeking abortion without any help from adults,” Low said.

Oxford proposed an amendment to the bill that consisted of providing emergency care for rape victims, prohibiting government restrictions on access to contraception, and re-establishing a family planning program that was cut three years ago.

“We need to take a stand for prevention of abortion,” Oxford said.

The amendment was quickly ruled out of order. The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Susan Phillips, said the amendment violated the constitution by going beyond the subject matters raised by the governor in calling the special session.

“We cannot add anything. I know there a lot of ideas, but we must remain within the three points of the governor’s call,” she said.

A similar family-planning proposal was ruled out of order last week in the Senate on the same grounds.

Pamela Sumner of Pro-choice Missouri and Traci Gleason, the public affairs director of Planned Parenthood, made a presentation opposing the bill before the committee.

Sumner predicted the state would waste millions of dollars defending the bill’s constitutionality if it is approved.

Those who presented in favor of the bill included Larry Weber, who represented the Missouri Catholic Conference and Campaign Life Missouri, and Susan Klein of the Missouri Right to Life. “This bill is looking out for women’s best interest,” Klein said.

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