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Republican Senator to File Stronger Abortion-Related Laws

November 29, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Restrictions on the morning after pill are part of an anti-abortion package unveiled for the upcoming Missouri legislative session.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, plans to propose four bills to foster what he calls a "pro-life culture" in state law.

The first bill would keep Plan B, also known as the morning after pill, available only with a prescription. The FDA is considering whether to approve over-the-counter sales of the pill and Crowell wants to make sure it remains prescription only in Missouri.

Thursday is the first day lawmakers can pre-file bills for the legislative session that will begin in early January.

"The potential in having an over-the-counter super birth control pill, if you will, could lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases," said Crowell.

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, disagreed with Crowell's reasoning for the bill.

"This would not be the recommended way to deal with sexually transmitted diseases-we know what best practices are with that and this is not one of them," Bray said.

Plan B contains a high dose of regular birth control hormones that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Currently the pill is only available with a prescription in the state. The pill gained national attention recently when the FDA delayed its decision on whether the pill would be allowed to be sold without a prescription.

Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region, said the proposed legislation is another example of a legislator out of step with women's needs.

"This is a great example of a state senator playing doctor by confusing science with his own kind of narrow and rigid ideology. His effort would make Plan B less available for women in this state and that's a step in the wrong direction," Gianino said.

Crowell said he thinks keeping the pill prescription only will ensure women use the pill safely and understand what they're taking.

He's also introducing legislation to make it optional for pharmacists to fill prescriptions for drugs they feel induce abortions.

"Just because you go to pharmacy school it doesn't mean that you have to check your conscience or your values at the door, we don't do that for medical students we don't do that for any medical provider," Crowell said.

Bray said the law would give pharmacists too much control.

"Pharmacist should not be impersonating doctors, pharmacists have a legal and moral right to fill prescriptions."

Crowell's legislative package would also prohibit state money going to entities directly or indirectly supporting abortions. Programs could not advise woman to have an abortion or take them to receive an abortion, and would be banned from displaying or distributing abortion services.

"It's just assaulting women and a woman's ability to care of their health needs and the bearers of the children," Bray said. "It's just an absolute disregard of woman as intelligent human beings who can handle these things."

The last bill in Crowell's package would allow residents to file for a 50 percent tax credit for contributing to a pregnancy support center.

Abortion has long been a hot button issue for Missouri legislators. On Monday the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upheld a lower court's decision that struck down the Missouri ban on certain late term abortions.

In September the General Assembly passed a bill during a special session that prevents minors from leaving the state to have an abortion and placed restrictions on abortion providers.