JEFFERSON CITY - The abortion controversy in Missouri's legislature shifted to the House Tuesday where the House Children Committee heard testimony on a measure identical to what the governor vetoed last year.
Despite sponsor promises that this year's bill would address concerns of opponents, the bill is virtually to what the governor had rejected last spring.
The measure would require a woman to contact a private counselor before she could undergo an abortion.
Rep. Ron Auer, D-St Louis, sponsor of the bill, described the bill as "a starting point" for a future and definitive agreement on it.
That led several members to question just what exactly was to be changed and Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, to ask Auer if there was a "real bill" elsewhere, waiting to be revealed. Auer's answer was a straight "no."
The main lobbyist for the bill, Lou Defeo, with the Missouri Catholic Conference, echoed Auer's statements that they were open to a compromise.
"We are ready to make changes on the clarification of confidential records and the place to meet for the counselors and the women looking for advice," Defeo said. He said he is confident that in a week or two, the committee will have some suggestions for the change.
Opponents presented to the committee a video showing a visit to a counseling clinic that claimed to be neutral, but where, in fact, women were strongly urged not to abort. Opposers argued these kind of people would be eligible to act as case managers under the bill.
But Defeo said the counselor case managers would have to comply with guidelines issued by the state Health Department.
The case manager's function, according to Auer, would be merely to link women to supporting agencies, identify their needs and guide them to professional counseling, housing or other services. "The policy of the state should be to consider other options than abortion," Auer said.
Rev. Coletta Eichenberger, who represented Planned Parenthood, charged the requirement to contact a counselor was a "clear attempt to interfere in the path of a woman who has made her choice."