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Partial Birth Abortion Bill Gets New Name

February 10, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 427

JEFFERSON CITY -It's back. Abortion rights opponents in the legislature have resuscitated a proposal to ban the so-called "partial birth" abortion procedure.

Gov. Carnahan's 1997 veto of a similar proposal was sustained by just one vote in the Senate.

Sponsors contend this bill is to same effect, but features different language. Called the Infant Protection Act, the bill doesn't mention partial birth abortion. It says it will protect the life of an infant, including an infant being born, and including an infant delivered alive after an attempted abortion.

"It simply says you can't kill a baby while it's being born," said Rep. Bill Luetkenhaus, D-Josephville, the bill's sponsor.

Sponsors of three other bills banning partial birth abortion have endorsed Luetkenhaus's language.

Ed Martin, director of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, "We cannot have these types of procedures taking place - we're talking about something on the edge of civilized and uncivilized behavior," he said.

State Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, challenged Leutkenhaus to reconcile his opposition to abortion to his support of the death penalty.

"An infant being born hasn't murdered anyone, hasn't been convicted from any crime," Luetkenhaus responded.

Dr. Anne Hennessy, a pediatrician, said that fetuses become viable at the age of 23-24 weeks.

"There are many survivors, and survivors with a lot of human potential," she said. Hennessy also said that a fetus can feel pain at this stage of pregnancy.

Opponents pointed to the tragic circumstances that may, in rare instances, lead women to late-term abortions.

Mary Ellen Degnan, a Columbia resident, said, "These are not people who have cavelierly decided to postpone abortion." Degnan also noted said that "partial birth" abortion bans are too vague not affect other late term abortion procedures - and that this bill was no different.

While opponents noted that the procedure isn't currently performed in Missouri, Luetkenhaus said, "They have it in Kansas, they have it in Nebraska. If it was the boll weevil, w'ed do something to respond" - even though it wasn't here yet.

Carnahan has previously said he sign a partial-birth abortion bill if it contained a provision to protect the physical health of the mother. Abortion rights opponents are only willing to make an exception to protect the mother's life.

One Senator who provided one vote margin to uphold Carnahan's veto, Mike Lybyer, D-Higgins, was defeated by abortion rights opponent, Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, in 1998.

House leaders say they have 116 cosponsors - that's more than enough to override the the governor's veto - at least in the lower chamber.

Under the bill, physicians who performed partial-birth abortions would face second-degree murder charges.

Leah Edelman, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said it was clear courts would throw out any legislation banning partial birth abortion - no matter how artfully worded.

"We hope the legislature decides not to pass a bill that's patently unconstitutional," she said.

"If this bill passes, it will be struck down and will be a waste of taxpayer's money," said Susan Carlson, and attorney with Planned Parenthood.