JEFFERSON CITY — Some Missouri lawmakers are taking aim at narrow pieces of what’s left to legislate within the scope of abortion.
The Senate Committee on Health and Pensions held hearings on several bills dealing with abortion Wednesday afternoon. The bills largely aim to chip away at access to abortion services and providers, increasing the scope of what’s illegal and cutting back funding. As a result of previous legislation, only a single abortion clinic is left in Missouri.
One, Senate Bill 101, keeps aborted fetus remains out of the custody of doctors. Another, SB 168, creates criminal and civil liability in cases where a fetus that remains alive during or after an abortion is endangered. The third, SB 458, makes “dismemberment abortions,” known medically as dilation and extraction, illegal outside of medical emergencies. SB 398 would prohibit officials from allocating public funds to abortion facilities, affiliates or certain research that relates to the use of deceased fetuses or children without parental consent.
Mallory Schwartz, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, argued that these bills contained and propagated misinformation and that the hushed effects of these bills, like pushing clinics out of Missouri and furthering stigmatization, are “dangerous intrusions” into people’s right to abortions.
“Dozens of unnecessary restrictions on abortion are already in the code,” Schwartz said. “Families are making difficult, complicated, personal decisions — one-size-fits-all laws don’t work, and people are suffering.”
The topics of several of these bills run into ground that’s already covered — one senator noted that “dismemberment abortions” are already prevented by a ban on late stage abortions in a previously passed bill.
Sen. Bill Eigel, the sponsor of SB 398, the funding bill, said that each year Missouri has passed legislation preventing funds from going to abortion services via the budget process. His bill, he said, is simply to “alleviate the pressure of having to reapprove” the prohibition.
Sen. Andrew Koenig sponsored SB 101, involving fetal remains, a guard which is not already in Missouri law but has been brought up in other bills for the last several years. The concern behind the bill, Koenig said, is an unspecified number of instances in which human remains have been disturbingly mishandled or kept by doctors.
“There is an instance at Chapman in Indiana,” Koenig said, “in which an abortion doctor buried the remains of 2,411 unborn babies at his home.”
Several of the bills are about making Missouri a “more humane society,” according to Susan Klein, executive director of Missouri Right to Life.
Opponents of the bills raised concerns that lawmakers were over-regulating abortion services in the state in a harmful and uninformed manner.
“This is legislative interference at its worst...” Schwartz said. “Despite the record of opposition from courts and providers alike, politicians think they have clinical and scientific background to overrule best practice medical guidance. This puts politicians over the people they represent.”
Advocates said this legislation had broad support from Missouri residents.
“Missouri is a pro-life state,” Sen. Rick Brattin said, “and this is an important step to advancing our commitment.”