JEFFERSON CITY -- Late-term abortion would essentially be banned under a bill that passed the state House on Monday.
The bill would impose more restrictions on terminating a viable fetus, allowing abortions only when a mother's health is in danger.
Under the bill, a fetus could not be aborted if it is at least 20 weeks old and determined viable by two physicians. A fetus is considered viable if it can survive on its own outside the womb.
A doctor in violation could serve prison time and incur a penalty up to $50,000.
Rep. Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, the bill's sponsor, said it would protect society's neediest members.
"The state should act to protect and provide for the most needy," Jones said. "I cannot think of anyone more innocent and more needy than an unborn child."
Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood St. Louis, said the bill is unnecessary because most abortion clinics already follow those guidelines.
Last week, the House held extended debate on the bill, which summoned personal statements from both sides.
Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, said her family made the choice to keep a granddaughter who has developmental problems. Franklin said the girl is now leading a meaningful life, and other children should be given the same opportunity.
"This bill gives those children a chance," Franklin said. "It gives them a chance to become a part of our society and contributing in a way none of the rest of us could because we have not faced those struggles."
Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, related a similar story about a grandchild with developmental problems but argued that the decision to keep a child is a personal matter. It should not be in the hands of government, she said.
"To interject yourselves into my family's personal decision, I find it wrong," Newman said."I find it morally wrong."
Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, also contended that the decision should be personal.
"Whether to go ahead and continue and have a child without a brain, that is a personal decision," McNeil said. "It is not something this body ought to make decisions about."
She had offered an amendment to clarify the definition of viability but withdrew the amendment before Monday's vote.
The bill was approved 120-37 and needs a second vote before moving to the Senate.