JEFFERSON CITY — Having cleared Missouri’s Legislature early Wednesday night, the governor’s abortion regulations package appears to be headed to the courts.
Immediately after the overwhelming House approval of 115-35, Planned Parenthood announced it would take the new law to court.
“Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region are preparing to immediately file a lawsuit against the new law in the state circuit court in Jackson County,” said Traci Gleason, Planned Parenthood public affairs director.
Court action could come fairly quickly. The governor’s spokesman Spence Jackson said Gov. Matt Blunt would sign the bill as soon as it hits his desk, as early as this morning.
Jackson said the governor plans to act so quickly “because this is something that could make a definitive and fast impact on the number of abortions that occur in the state.”
Because an emergency clause was approved by more than two-thirds of the House and the Senate, the bill takes effect immediately once the governor signs the bill.
During House debate Wednesday, the first opposition voice came from a fellow Republican who warned that the bill was worded in such a way that it could subject stem-cell researchers to felony prosecution.
“Some research scientists will be arrested and charged with a felony,” said Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Lee’s Summit.
Johnson cited a provision in the bill that makes it a crime for someone to perform an abortion without having privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Because another law broadly defines abortion as “intentionally destroying the life of an embryo,” Johnson argued the hospital privilege requirement could apply to some forms of stem-cell research.
But the House handler of the bill, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, said the bill does not extend to stem-cell research and it only applies to an embryo in a mother’s womb.
“This bill provides a clear definition,” she said.
In addition to the hospital privilege requirement, the bill would allow civil legal action to be taken against anyone who assists a minor to get an abortion without judicial or parental consent.
Another provision restricts who can petition a court for a minor’s abortion if parents refuse — prohibiting people who have a financial interest in the abortion.
The bill was sparked by minors obtaining abortions in Illinois, where parental consent is not required.
“We are closing a loophole with this bill,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham cited a newspaper article that reported that more than 200 minors have traveled to Illinois to have abortions.
Outside the Capitol, a Planned Parenthood pro-abortion-rights rally took place. More than 100 protesters, many wearing bright blue shirts that read “This Is What A Pro-Choice Missourian Looks Like,” marched to Blunt’s door to deliver petitions against the abortion restriction bill. The petitions, which the organization said contained about 5,000 signatures, were left in the hallway outside the governor’s office complex.
The protest occurred just hours before the final House vote.
“His special session was brought up without very much notice,” said protester Laura Zemann of Imperial. “It hindered getting everyone together to respond. That was probably the goal.”