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Women's Abortion Options May Change

February 26, 1998
By: Timothy Wolff
MDN Columbia Bureau

Every day, Coletta Eichenberger and Gloria Lee meet women in trouble, women ... who are pregnant. Part of their jobs is to help explain the options. Those options may change now that the legislature is considering bills to ban partial birth abortion. The two women could not disagree more about that change.

Gloria Lee is the program director at Our Lady's Inn Shelter For Pregnant Women in Saint Louis. "Many people," she says, "don't know abortion on demand is legal right up until birth."

She hopes the media's coverage of last year's bills has helped people become more aware of the lack of restrictions on women choosing to terminate their pregnancies. She also hopes that a new bill will pass, and that partial birth abortion will no longer be an option to consider.

Coleta Eichenberger is aware that abortions are legal right up to birth--and she wants to keep it that way. Eichenberger is the director of community operations for Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri and Eastern Kansas.

She knows of no partial birth abortions in Missouri and believes the bills would be unconstitutional.

"It would tie the hands of a lot of physicians," she says. To her, legislators are trying to dictate medical procedure.

Missouri U-S Senator John Ashcroft has criticized the new Surgeon General, David Satcher,for his support of the president's stance on partial birth abortion.

Satcher has concerns similar to Eichenberger's about a new bill before Congress, which resembles the main bill facing the Missouri legislature.

State Senator Ted House disagrees with the notion that the legislature should not be involved in medical procedure. The Saint Charles Democrat is the main sponsor of Senate Bill 785, the bill that seems to be gaining the most support.

He believes that the legislature has to stop physicians from someday performing partial birth abortions.

In his bill, he defines partial birth abortion as "an abortion in which the child is intentionally killed while the child is a considerable part of the way out of his or her mother's womb."

Even if the bill is passed, that still may not be enough to make it an effective law. House admits the courts have already overturned laws enacted in Ohio and other states.

State Senator House has turned to Sam Lee, Gloria's husband and a full time lobbyist, for advice. Sam believes that the new version has a good chance of standing up in court.

Gloria says,"You just can't comprehend that this many people think it's okay."

For those who do find partial birth abortion okay, Coletta Eichenberger hopes to help defeat the bill and preserve a seldom used option.

The passing of such a bill, she says, "would have serious implications." That's one thing both sides agree on.