JEFFERSON CITY — Abortion-rights opponent groups are raising concerns that legislation allowing certified midwives to deliver babies could inadvertently open the way for people other than doctors to perform abortions.
Lobbyists for abortion-rights opponents are scrambling to try to cancel that possibility by amending clarifying language to another bill before the legislative session ends.
The midwifery provision was slipped into a health insurance bill last week by Sen. John Loudon, a staunch abortion-rights opponent. Legislators realized what Loudon had done only after they passed the bill and sent it to the governor, prompting an outcry from some colleagues and resulting in Loudon’s removal from a committee chairmanship.
Some lawmakers are trying to reverse Loudon’s action by passing a second health insurance bill without the midwifery language, which would give Gov. Matt Blunt the option of vetoing the first one.
Abortion-rights opponent groups generally remained neutral on whether to legalize certified midwives. But they contend the language could have unintended consequences.
Loudon’s provision stated that despite other laws to the contrary, people certified in ministry or obstetrics by private groups can provide services related to pregnancy.
The intent was to supersede a Missouri law making midwifery a felony crime for anyone other than certain nurses working in connection with physicians.
But the provision also could invalidate a Missouri law making it a crime for anyone other than a physician to perform or induce an abortion, since that also is a pregnancy-related service, said Sam Lee, of Campaign Life Missouri. Lee supports an amendment clarifying that midwives could not perform abortions.
Lobbyists for Missouri Right to Life and the Missouri Catholic Conference also expressed concern Thursday about the potential abortion consequences of the midwifery language and their support for the clarifying amendment.
Loudon, R-Chesterfield, said he did not believe his provision would expand authority for people to perform abortions, but added that he, too, would support a clarifying amendment.