Governor, lawmakers zero in on abortion in historic fashion
Special session begins Sept. 6
By Allen Palmeri
August 23, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The historic decision by Gov. Matt Blunt to call a special session of the Missouri General Assembly Sept. 6 primarily to approve pro-life legislation is being applauded by Missouri Baptists and leaders of other pro-life organizations in the state.
“I think he should be praised for what he is doing,” said Rodney Albert, chairman, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Christian Life Commission. “He is calling a special session and we are attacking abortion in Missouri, and for that we are very thankful to this governor. It would not happen if someone else on the other side was sitting in that office.”
Keeping a promise he made to the pro-life citizens of Missouri in May, when lawmakers failed to pass any form of abortion legislation, Blunt on Aug. 17 issued his call to convene a special session. The governor has called lawmakers back to work to consider pro-life legislation that will “help reduce the number of abortions in our state.”
The governor is advocating passage of three pro-life provisions that would:
(1) Allow parents to sue any adult who helps his or her minor daughter (under age 18) to get an abortion without getting the required parental consent, including if the girl is taken across state lines;
(2) Limit “next friend,” or an adult who acts on behalf of a child in a parental consent court proceeding, to exclude anyone with a financial interest or potential gain in the girl’s decision to have an abortion; and
(3) Require abortion doctors to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed or induced.
Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, who is serving as the Senate’s point man on the legislation, noted the historical significance of Blunt calling a special session mainly for the purpose of addressing abortion.
“It is the first time in 12 years that we’ve had a friend in the governor’s office,” Scott said. “The governor feels strongly about reducing abortions, he is a strong pro-life governor, and I feel really privileged to work with him.”
Scott added that Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, should sponsor the pro-life legislation that will be introduced Sept. 6. Loudon has been fighting for seven years to pass a civil liability abortion law on parental consent.
“Certainly these have been his issues in the past, and I think he’s the one to carry it,” Scott said.
The special session is also needed to take care of several other “housekeeping” matters on various bills. Blunt is asking lawmakers to address conflicting language in four recently enacted alcohol-related laws, including one with a section dealing with prescription drugs at schools. Other issues that lawmakers are being asked to look at are: correcting drafting errors in the new workers’ compensation law; removing provisions prohibiting the posting of personal information of elected officials on the Internet by state and local government offices; and considering a concurrent resolution in opposing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ spring rise plan of the Missouri River.
When Blunt, who attends Second Baptist Church, Springfield, witnessed the failure of the General Assembly May 13 to pass a pro-life bill, he promptly announced that he would call lawmakers back in special session so that they could pass a bill and send it to him for his signature yet this year. Kerry Messer, lobbyist, Missouri Baptist Convention, said he is encouraged that the governor has kept his promise.
Messer added that he is pleased to be working with a governor who is showing by his actions that he is determined to defend the unborn. Blunt and Messer met privately July 13 at the governor’s behest for consultation on the special session and other forthcoming pro-life legislation in general.
“For 12 years, we’ve had governors who would have vetoed these issues had they passed the Legislature,” Messer said. “We should be very thankful for a governor who would take the initiative to issue such a special call, giving the Legislature a green light to pass pro-life legislation in an environment where we will have a 99.99 percent guarantee that the bill will pass to be signed into law. The environment of a special session is such that it makes a filibuster in the Senate almost impossible to accomplish.”
Susan Klein, legislative liaison, Missouri Right to Life, indicated that pro-life lobbyists met with elected officials July 25 and came away with positive feelings about the legislation being proposed for the special session.
“All three (provisions) are good pieces of legislation,” Klein said. “Of those three, the one that will save the most lives is the 30-mile radius. That’s the one that the abortionists fear the most.”
The parental notification part of the bill is parallel policy to that on the current docket of the United States Supreme Court. The merits of a New Hampshire’s parental notice law will be orally argued before the justices Nov. 30.
The governor has sought bipartisan support before the special session. On Aug. 9, he had members of his staff meet with four representatives of the House Democrats for Life Caucus, including the chairwoman, Rep. Belinda Harris, D-Ware and a member of Morse Mill Baptist Church.
Rep. Susan Phillips, R-Kansas City, the author of Missouri’s 24-hour wait law, will be the point person for the legislation in the House, Scott said. Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, is also expected to play a prominent role. Lawmakers aim to work quickly and efficiently.
“We want to get in special session and out of special session without getting stuck,” Scott said.