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House Passes Abortion Restriction Bill

September 14, 2005
By: Katie Peterson
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 1

JEFFERSON CITY - Having cleared Missouri's legislature early Wednesday night, the governor's anti-abortion package appears headed to the courts.

Immediately after the overwhelming House approval -- 115-35 -- Planned Parenthood announced it would take the new law to the courts.

"Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region are preparing to immediately file a lawsuit against the new law in the State Circuit Court in Jackson County," said Planned Parenthood Public Affairs Director Traci Gleason,

Court action could come fairly quickly. The governor's spokesperson, Spence Jackson said Matt Blunt would sign the bill as soon as it hits his desk -- as early as Thursday morning.

"Because this is something that can make a definitive and fast impact on the number of abortions that occur in the state," Jackson said in explaining why the governor planned to act so quickly.

Because an emergency clause was approved by more than two-thirds of both the House and Senate, the bill will take effect immediately upon the governor's signature.

During House debate Wednesday, the first opposition voiced came from a fellow Republican who warned that the bill was worded in such a way that it could subject stem-cell researchers to felony prosecution.

"Some research scientist will be arrested and charged with a felony," said Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Jackson County.

Johnson cited a provision in the bill that makes it a crime for someone to preform an abortion without having privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Because another law broadly defines abortion as "intentionally destroying the life of embryo," Johnson argued the hospital-privilege requirement could apply to some forms of stem-cell research.

But the House handler of the bill -- Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County -- said the bill does not extend to stem cell research and that it only applies to an embryo in a mother's whom. "This bill provides a clear definition," she said.

In addition to the hospital privilege requirement, the bill also would allow civil legal action against anyone who assists a minor to get an abortion without judicial or parental consent.

Another provision restricts who can petition a court for a minor's abortion if parents refuse -- prohibiting persons who have a financial interest in the abortion.

The bill was sparked by minors obtaining abortions in Illinois where parental consent is not required.

Cunningham said, "We are closing a loophole with this bill." Cunningham cited a newspaper article that more than 200 minors have travelled to Illinois to obtain abortions.

Outside the capitol, a Planned Parenthood Pro-Choice rally took place. More than one hundred protesters, many wearing bright blue shirts that read, "This is what a Pro-Choice Missourian Looks Like," marched to Gov. Matt Blunt's office door to deliver petitions against the abortion-restriction bill.

The petitions, which the organization said contained about 5,000 signatures, were left in the hallway outside the governor's office complex.

The protest came just hours before the final House vote.

Protester Laura Zemann from Imperial said, "The special session was brought up without very much notice. It hindered getting everyone together to respond. That was probably the goal."