JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri Senate committee on Tuesday approved abortion restrictions weaker than those requested by Gov. Eric Greitens last week.

“I’m just trying to protect the Senate when it gets on the floor,” said Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, as a few Senators objected to the elimination of one of Greitens' proposals.

The Senate’s Seniors, Family and Children Committee gave 4-2 party line approval to three anti-abortion bills as part of this summer’s second special legislative session. But prior to passing a broad bill sponsored by Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, they first eliminated anti-abortion proposals the General Assembly did not consider during their regular session.

Onder’s bill includes multiple anti-abortion measures he said are designed to keep women safe. Those measures include requiring annual, unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, clarifying protections for whistleblowers at abortion clinics and mandating more of the tissue removed during an abortion be sent to a pathologist.

One of the proposals the committee eliminated would have replaced the phrase “ambulatory surgical center” throughout the state’s abortion statutes with the term “abortion facility” in an attempt to bring existing statutes into compliance with a May ruling by U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs. The federal court ruling invalidated numerous requirements for doctors and clinics performing abortions, which Missouri regulated as “ambulatory surgical centers.” Classifying abortion facilities as "ambulatory surgical centers" subjects them to more regulations, making them more difficult to operate.

Other regulations requested by Greitens removed by the committee include:

  • Criminalizing “interference with medical assistance” by abortion facility employees. In a Facebook video last week, the governor suggested abortion providers were asking ambulance drivers to approach facilities without a siren.
  • Requiring a Department of Health and Senior Services approved "complication plan" before a physician may induce a medical abortion.
  • Instructing women seeking an abortion to have a consent discussion with a physician.

The committee mostly removed proposals that made them "uneasy" because they were brought forward for the first time during the special session, Onder said. He did not leave out the possibility that some of the ideas may be reintroduced for debate after the Senate convenes Wednesday morning.

“I think that everything that was removed were all very good common sense measures that I could have defended on the floor,” Onder said.

The other two bills the committee approved would give the attorney general jurisdiction to enforce abortion laws and would pre-empt a St. Louis ordinance banning housing and employment discrimination based on reproductive decisions.

For roughly five hours, more than a dozen people gave impassioned testimony for and against the bills during the committee's Tuesday hearing.

Seated at a wooden desk in the center of the Senate Lounge, Robin Utz choked back tears and pleaded with the group of senators to not make medical decisions for women based on politics. 

Utz told legislators that she and her husband tried to get pregnant for four years, then at 21 weeks of pregnancy they discovered their daughter would have a terminal disease. She said the decision to have an abortion was one done out of love for her child and was the hardest one she ever had to make.

Women should not need to leave Missouri to access the legal medical care they need, though being dismissed by legislators made her want to leave, Utz said.

"I am sure some of you would like to see me go," Utz said. "But I won’t leave without a fight for what I think is right for my daughter and for our family and for the other people that have to face this situation."

*Missouri Right to Life's chief lobbyist Susan Klein said the amendments packed into the bills up for debate insures protection for women when they are in crisis situations. 

Klein suggested abortion providers aren’t concerned with protecting women because it cuts into their profits.

“Abortions are going down,” she said. “Abortion profits are going down. I guess there is some concern they’ll keep losing (profit).”  

The Senate will reconvene at 9 a.m. Wednesday for debate on the proposals.

Supervising editor is John Sadler.

  • Columbia Missourian Reporter, sometimes Photographer, former Photo Editor.

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