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Partial-birth abortion debate begins anew

February 25, 1998
By: Aaron Springer
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The debate on partial-birth abortion has begun anew in the Missouri State House of Representatives.

Wednesday night, the House Criminal Law committee heard testimony for and against four bills which would ban partial birth abortions.

Many participants said the hearing wasn't necessary.

"Everybody who works in this building knows how they're going to vote," Rep. Rich Chrismer, R-St. Peters, said.

Of the 17 members on the committee, 12 voted for similar legislation last year. Four of the representatives voted against the bill.

Last year, both the house and the senate passed a bill banning partial-birth abortions except when the mother's life was in danger. Gov. Mel Carnahan vetoed the bill saying he would only pass legislation that took the mother's life and health health into account. The senate upheld the veto when several senators who had originally supported the bill voted against it the second time.

"The governor told me during last year's special session that we need a piece of legislation to make this illegal and we're giving him the opportunity to do this," said Rep. Bill Luetkenhaus, D-Josephville, a sponsor of one bill heard last night.

Three of this year's bills, including one sponsored by Chrismer, ban partial-birth abortions except in cases of the mother's life. The fourth bill sponsored by Rodger Fitzwater, D-Norborne, included an exception for the mother's health as well. Fitzwater said that because of this exception, his bill is the only one legal under the constitution.

Opponents of the ban said the restriction wouldn't allow physicians the ability to make the best decision.

"These bills have a chilling effect on physicians which could keep them from making the correct decisions," M'Evie Mead, Legislative Chair of the Missouri Alliance for Choice, said.

Chrismer said physicians didn't always have the best intentions so they shouldn't be allowed to make the decision.

One opponent said Chrismer's bill was still to vague and could be read to include procedures protected by the constitution.

"By passing a bill like this, they may invalidate procedures that are safe and legal," physician Howard Schwartz said.