From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Abortion Restrictions Clear House

State Capital Bureau

April 23, 1995

Also see:

JEFFERSON CITY _ After two days of debate and 30 attempted amendments, the House passed a bill that would make it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion.

But the bill might never be printed in Missouri law books. Anti-abortion forces were able to garner only 98 votes _ eleven short of 109 that would be needed for a two-thirds vote to override Gov. Mel Carnahan's promised veto.

The bill would require that before a woman could have an abortion, she would have to seek out a state-certified volunteer counselor. In order to get an abortion, she must present verification that she has been offered counseling.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Ron Auer, D-St. Louis, said the bill was intended to make sure that woman seeking an abortion "has considered all her options and is fully informed of her decision."

"Our intent is to offer a caring and trained individual who can support and assist their client as needed," Auer said in his opening statement.

But opponents argued that is not a role for government.

"Is that your responsibility to come to my house and tell my family what they should be doing," asked Rep. Louis Ford, D-St. Louis.

The measure goes back to the Senate for consideration of the House changes. The Senate had approved a measure similar to the House version.

The House action on the bill came after a week-long filibuster by bill supporters and Republicans trying to force the House leadership to allow House action on the bill.

Finally, they simply voted to over-rule the House speaker and take up the bill (See rollcall vote on overruling the chair). It was the first time in his 15 years as speaker that Bob Griffin had one of his rulings overridden by the chamber.

During subsequent House debate on the bill, abortion-rights supporters offered amendment after amendment, knowing each time they would be rejected.

Most of the amendments were proposed by female legislators.

Twenty-two of the 36 women in the House voted for against the bill. The rest, 14 women, voted for it.

Rep. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, said the bill was being decided by the wrong people.

"This bill was written by men, handled by men, and defended by men," Bray said. "This bill says women are too dumb or too ignorant to make decisions about childbirth or motherhood."

But Rep. Laurie Donovan, R-St. Louis County, said she supported the bill because it looks out for women's mental and physical health during a traumatic time of their lives.

"We don't know what's down the road from us," Donovan said. "Sometimes we don't know all the options. This would give women a chance to get an unbiased opinion. Why can't we give women all their options?"

The morning-after pill was the subject of an amendment. The amendment's intent was to allow women to get the morning-after pill without counseling.

The pill prevents the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, therefore preventing a pregnancy from occurring. It must be used within the first 48 hours of conception.

The pill is often given to rape victims if they consent when they go to the hospital and it also may be prescribed by a doctor. It is legal and easily attainable in Missouri.

While women could get the morning-after pill without counseling under the amendment, they would not be able to get RU486, the so-called "abortion pill."

The morning-after pill fits the definition of abortion under other Missouri statutes, said Rep. Steve Gaw, D-Moberly, and thus would be covered by the counseling requirements without the amendment.

The House rejected the amendment.

The House did approve amendment to exempt rape and incest victims from the counseling requirements.

But after hours of trying to soften the bill further, abortion-rights supporters appealed to representatives with a subject that was an underlying issue in the abortion debate _ religion.

"The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the choice to follow or not to follow him," said Rep. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City. "Certainly, a woman should have this choice. Why don't you all stop playing God?"

The measure had been backed by the state Catholic Conference whose lobbyist, Lou DeFeo, continued to confer with supporters outside the House chamber during the entire two days of debate.

Rep. Emmy McClelland, R-St. Louis County, said she based her opposition to the bill on religious freedom and her party's principles.

"Our Republican party believes in the least government possible," McClelland said. "It believes we need to keep government out of business and lives. Nothing comes in such direct contradiction to those principles."