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Anti-abortion Bill Clears Senate

State Capital Bureau

April 06, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Although the fight to kill a bill restricting abortions waged long and hard, what the supporters said was the inevitable happened Thursday (April 6).

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation sponsored by Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, that critics warn could shutdown abortion facilities in the state. See rollcall vote.

Under the bill, any woman seeking an abortion must obtain written proof she had received outside counseling on alternatives or had declined counseling. The state-certified counselor, who could have no connection with the abortion facility, would alert the woman to alternatives to abortion.

In addition, any taxpayer would be given power to seek a court order shutting down a facility suspected of violating the counseling requirements.

Sen. Joe Moseley, D-Columbia, had blocked Senate approval of the measure on Wednesday by extended debate that some senators said was a filibuster.

But Moseley said Thursday he was raising legitimate technical concerns about the bill. And he held out the possibility of a compromise.

"If this bill did what it says it does, the vote might be unanimous," he said. "In its present form I cannot support the bill."

Although Schneider and Moseley spent Wednesday debating the bill, they spent Thursday working together. Schneider even proposed an amendment addressing some of Moseley's concerns.

"I wanted proponents and opponents to see the very kinds of changes I was willing to make in my bill," Schneider said. "I think it worked."

Moseley supported Schneider's motion to suspend the rules and debate the amendment, but Schneider still withdrew his motion.

"He wasn't serious about it," Moseley said.

But Schneider said he was serious about compromising.

"The best people to help write a bill are the opposition," Schneider said. "The legislative process is a creative process. Dealing with each other with respect is the only way to get this passed."

Moseley and Schneider met after the vote to discuss possible changes to the bill. Both said they were willing to work together to draft an amendment to recommend to the House.

One issue involves the legislative staff estimate for the costs in state regulation of the abortion counselors. Moseley argued the original staff estimate of the costs was too low.

He said the Health Department issued a letter pointing out the financial discrepancy on Tuesday, but that the bill's supporters ignored it. Moseley said he did not want to vote on the bill until everyone had an idea what the adjusted cost would equal.

A higher cost estimate, however, would require that before House consideration the bill would have to be approved by House Budget Committee that is charged by an abortion-rights supporter.

Moseley said his major concern with the Senate version of the bill deals with the punitive damages for clinics. Under the bill, facilities that provide abortions to women without the written verification would lose their licenses.

"This is opening the door to the actual closing of clinics," he said. "If it is just to help women, why do we need the punitive damages?"

Schneider's amendment did not cover that part of Moseley's objections.

Although Moseley said he supports most of the bill's aims, like providing better prenatal services and information on housing and adoption, he condemned the system set up in the bill.

"Women need to be aware of what is available. But to force somebody to go and get counseling and maybe get intimidated doesn't benefit anybody," he said.

"These are just roadblocks to women trying to attain a legal procedure," he said. "If it is too burdensome, they will turn to an illegal procedure. I'm a strong supporter of women's rights and I want to keep abortions safe and legal."

Moseley also said the bill's vague language could lead to trouble in the future.

"I'm concerned with things that coin phrases without any idea why we need that," he said. "It expands this bill to the point even before conception. We might find ourselves in the future engaged in a debate about RU486 (the pregnancy-termination pill)."