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Abortion Compromise Fails

February 14, 1996
By: Reece Rushing
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - When Patrick Dougherty, chairman of the House Children, Youth and Families Committee, saw five abortion bills on his agenda, he said he wanted compromise. A subcommittee was formed, made up of six women - three pro-abortion rights, three anti-abortion - to come up with a single bill acceptable to both sides of the abortion issue.

"I was hoping we might forge some type of agreement," Dougherty said. "It didn't turn out that way."

But Dougherty's effort at a compromise went down in flames Wednesday (Feb. 14).

What was passed out of Dougherty's committee left all six pro-abortion-rights legislators fuming while the 11 other legislators on the committee, who are anti-abortion, celebrated a victory.

"I was on the subcommittee," said Rep. Sue Shear, who is pro abortion rights. "I never had a drop of input into it," complained the St. Louis County Democrat.

The bill, which Shear says was written by anti-abortion lobbyists, would tighten insurance requirements for physicians preforming abortions, place stricter regulations on facilities where abortions are preformed, and require the state health department to distribute information on abortion.

Shear said the bill might seem harmless on the surface, but its true aim is to make it more difficult for women to get an abortion.

"There's little subtle things in there that are unacceptable to those of us who do not think government has a role in abortion," Shear, D-St. Louis County, said.

But Deborah Buckner, a lobbyist for Missouri Right to Life, said the bill deals with health issues and does not intend to make abortion less accessible.

"If abortion is legal, then let's at least make it safe," she said.

But not even all in the anti-abortion forces are happy with the committee's action.

The House committee did not include in its bill the "care-giver" provisions vetoed by the governor last year which would have required a woman to contact a private counselor before getting an abortion.

Lou DeFeo, lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Conference, said he has not given up on that approach - that he'll be working for that approach in the Senate.

The House sponsor of the care-giver bill, Rep. Ron Auer, D-St. Louis, said he did not push that approach because he thought it was time to give other issues, such as medical malpractice and licensing of facilities that preform abortions, a chance for public debate.

"That's not to say it's not going to be open season once the bill hits the floor," said Dougherty, who is anti-abortion. "The nature of this bill will change dramatically on the floor."

Because the bill got out of committee so early in the legislative session, the debate on the floor could be heated and drawn out, which Shear says she fears will just be counterproductive.

"I think this issue of abortion is the most divisive to ever hit the United States, and we're never going to settle this," she said.