The Missouri Senate passed the strongest pro-life bill in Missouri history with a vote of 24-10 at 5 a.m. on Thursday, May 16, after filibusters and 18 hours of marathon negotiations. The GOP-led House approved the bill (SS SCS HB 126) by a vote of 110-44, with minor changes, on Friday, May 17.
During negotiations, pro-life legislators say they received death threats from pro-abortion advocates in the form of letters, phone calls and Facebook messages. Approximately 200 pro-abortion protestors also came to the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, holding a parade and attending the debate on HB 126 in the House gallery on Friday morning. After three calls for order and warnings to be quiet, the group was asked to clear the galley during the vote. According to witness Kathy Forck, after HB 126 was approved, screaming could be heard coming from the outside of the chamber, followed by yelling and screams coming from outside of the Governor’s office, on the second floor of the capital building.
Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act
HB 126, also known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” was sponsored by Missouri Representative Nick Schrorer (R-107, O’Fallon) in the House and Senator Andrew Koenig (R-15, St. Louis County) in the Senate.
Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act
The Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act recognizes that "God is the author of life and that the Constitution of Missouri provides that all persons have a natural right to life." It further declares that Missouri is a “sanctuary of life” that protects pregnant women and their unborn children.
Governor Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill, and once that happens, Missouri will join five other conservative states in approving bans on abortion once a heartbeat can be detected. Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Dakota set the ban at six weeks gestation—Missouri set the ban beginning at eight weeks—except in the case of medical emergencies. There is no exception for rape or incest, after eight weeks.
The bill states that the presence of a heartbeat represents a more definable point of ascertaining survivability than the ambiguous concept of viability that was adopted by the Supreme Court, since with a heartbeat there is a high probability the unborn child will survive to birth.
The bill also contains a “trigger ban”: an attempt to solidify the protection of unborn babies and ban abortions in Missouri, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, and the decision is given back to each individual state. In that case, Missouri would automatically ban all abortions, under the bill.
Conversely, New York and Virginia passed aggressive legislation this spring that would allow for late-term abortions in their states. "It’s a direct response... to the extremism we’ve seen in places like New York and Virginia,” Missouri Senator Josh Hawley told FOX News. “Where you have Democrat politicians who are ... passing laws that would allow a baby to be born and then killed after birth.”
“I want to thank everybody for being here today to take a bold stand for life and to celebrate the victories that we’ve made,” Parson said in a press conference on May 15, urging the passage of HB 126. “Don’t lose your commitment to protecting life. Because until the day that we no longer have abortions in this country, I will never waver in the fight for life.
“It’s a God-given right to live,” he added. “I truly believe that. And I’m not afraid to say that in front of anyone.”
The Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act has a tiered series of abortion bans, beginning with the ban on abortions where a heartbeat can be detected at eight weeks and beyond.
If the eight-week heartbeat ban is struck down, then a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) 14-week ban will take effect. A D&E abortion refers to an abortion that is performed on an unborn child that is more developed. In a D&E abortion the cervix is dilated, the child is dismembered in the uterus, pulled apart at the limbs, and then removed.
If the 14-week D&E ban is struck down, then an 18-week ban will come into effect with this law. If the 18-week ban is struck down, then the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” will come into effect. This is a ban on abortions at 20-weeks gestational age or later, when unborn children are said to be capable of experiencing pain (with the ban still making exceptions in the cases of medical emergency).
Informed Consent, Race, Gender and Down Syndrome Children
HB 126 also bans abortions performed solely for race, gender or a Down Syndrome diagnosis.
The law will also obligate abortion facilities and family planning agencies to provide Missouri’s printed informed consent information to a woman referred to an out-of-state abortion facility.
The bill also increased the required malpractice insurance liability for those performing abortions to $1 million per occurrence and $3 million in the annual aggregate.
Parental Notification and Tax Credits
A few changes to the original language included:
- The second-parent notification before a minor has an abortion was changed to only apply to the parent of a minor who has been awarded joint legal custody, or joint physical custody by a court.
- A change added by the Senate, that sent the bill to the Fiscal Review Committee, increased tax credits to 70 percent that a taxpayer is allowed to claim against their tax liability, from of a donation made to Pregnancy Resource Center. They also lifted the limit on the amount of donations.
Any person who knowingly performs an abortion of an unborn child in violation of the above will be guilty of a Class B Felony, as well as subject to suspension or revocation of their license.
Planned Parenthood Vows to Fight
Planned Parenthood and The American Civil Liberties Union have vowed to challenge this in court. "Planned Parenthood will not sit by and watch as politicians take our rights and freedoms to women's health care away," Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement emailed to CBS News on Friday. Wen took to Twitter in response to the news from Missouri, writing, "This is a terrifying time for women in America. We will fight in Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and everywhere else politicians interfere with medical care, because women’s healthcare is healthcare and healthcare is a human right."
This is a terrifying time for women in America. We will fight in Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and everywhere else politicians interfere with medical care, because women’s healthcare is healthcare and healthcare is a human right. https://t.co/3l5pPvpN7K— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) May 17, 2019
“There have been a lot of cases in front of the United States Supreme Court as it relates to issues around abortion and pro-life legislation that have come out of the (Missouri) Legislature,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said. "…we’re ready, willing and able, even if it takes us all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
If Governor Parson signs this bill into law it will become effective on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, except for the provision that abortion facilities provide informed consent information to women. That provision will take effect immediately.
“I am happy that all Missouri women will get this information,” Kathy Forck with P.L.A.Y. (Prayer Legislation Action and You) said. “It saddens me that no media outlet has reported that the St. Louis Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic has had 74 documented medical emergencies, with women being taken away in ambulances since 2009. This is an average of one every 45 days and more than 50 percent of these emergencies were due to hemorrhaging. The last one I witnessed was on Monday, May 13, 2019, the day HB 126 was sent up to the Senate. I am thankful that this will increase education and safety for women in Missouri.”