Missouri House Members Toughen Proposed Abortion Regulations

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri House members meeting during a special session to consider new abortion restrictions sought Monday to restore some of the most divisive proposals that senators stripped from a bill to increase its chances of becoming law.

The House Children and Families Committee advanced many of the provisions sought by GOP Gov. Eric Greitens, but not before making some significant changes. The bill, which already cleared the full Senate, will have to go back there should the House pass the amended version a step expected as early as Tuesday.

One of the proposals the House panel revived would ban abortion clinic staff from asking that ambulances responding to medical emergencies at the facilities not use sirens or flashing lights during the calls. Violating that would be a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, previously told The Associated Press that Planned Parenthood has dropped such policies but acknowledged “there are times where we may have asked that the siren wasn’t on so that it didn’t alarm other people.” Greitens asked for an outright ban.

Other changes added to the House bill would give the state attorney general new authority to prosecute violations of state abortion laws without first notifying local prosecutors, which the Senate version had required.

If passed, abortion clinics also would face losing their licenses for at least a year if they don’t comply with requirements for submitting all fetal tissue from abortions, with some exceptions, to pathologists for review within 72 hours.

Republican Committee Chairwoman Diane Franklin said the Senate version “did not meet the muster that we felt like was important to go forward for the state.”

Proponents said the bill would mean historic changes to abortion law in the state.

Lawmakers in 1986 passed legislation that included a requirement that physicians performing abortions have surgical privileges at a hospital that offers obstetrical or gynecological care, as well as a ban on using taxpayer money for “encouraging or counseling” women to have abortions.

“If this passes, it would be the biggest change in Missouri’s abortion laws in at least 10 years and possibly since 1986,” said Samuel Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, said of the House version of the bill.

A federal judge this year struck down requirements on hospital privileges, along with another state law that had required clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. Greitens said the ruling in part motivated him to call the special session, during which he wants lawmakers to enact other restrictions on clinics in place of those that were struck down.

Missouri is among the most restrictive states on abortion. For example, Missouri is one of only five states that requires women to wait 72 hours after receiving counseling before getting an abortion, which according to the Guttmacher Institute is the nation’s longest waiting period. The institute is a national organization that supports abortion rights.

Missouri also already bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions, one of 17 states with that limit.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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