Governor signs historic pro-life bill
Judges block its implementation
By Allen Palmeri
October 4, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Matt Blunt began to use his “bully pulpit” Sept. 21 to address the topic of checks and balances in government as it pertains to a new pro-life law he signed Sept. 15, only to have a federal judge block it from being enforced one day after the governor’s action.
At Open Arms Pregnancy Resource Center in Jefferson City, Blunt launched a series of seven ceremonial signings of the new law. He took dead aim on the timing of the temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey of the Western District, the same federal jurisdiction that blocked other pro-life laws enacted by the Missouri General Assembly in 1999 and 2003.
“A federal judge immediately, without allowing the law to begin to have any sort of positive impact for the people of our state, immediately usurped the will of the elected representatives of the people and the governor,” Blunt said. “I’m confident that we’ll win in court. I am disappointed that it was such an immediate response.”
Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, authored the special-session bill strengthening Missouri’s existing parental consent law that the governor signed. Loudon said Judge Laughrey is simply an easily identified player in an all-too-familiar game.
“There is a left fringe in this country that is determined to use the judges to accomplish what they can’t through the people’s body,” Loudon said. “When legislatures put up laws and they run to the court and find a favorite judge to exert their small minority view over the rest of the population, it’s offensive. I think most of the judges are starting to recognize that legislative bodies have certain tools available to them to rein in the courts. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it is looking like we’re going to have to start reminding them if they want to make laws, they need to take off the robes and run for office.”
Loudon said that judges like Laughrey and Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Atwell of Jackson County, who ruled similarly Sept. 26 that another temporary restraining order should block the new law, have every right to hold hearings.
“But stall tactics are not fine,” the senator said, stating that this type of approach by the two judges who are now in the spotlight will be interpreted as an invitation for the legislative and executive branches to check an imbalance. “This is a simple piece of legislation. It’s not complicated. It either offends the First Amendment or it doesn’t.”
The governor has concluded that it doesn’t. As he traveled Sept. 21-22 from Jefferson City to St. Louis to Cape Girardeau, and on into Hannibal, St. Joseph, Joplin and Springfield, he was mindful of the fact that 77 percent of the state’s elected representatives and senators who voted on the pro-life bill voted in favor of Missouri strengthening its pro-life climate. Checks in government are true checks, he said.
“I believe they’re co-equal branches,” Blunt said. “I don’t believe that the judiciary has a right to usurp the will of the people of this state as reflected by their elected representatives and their governor.”
Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar and a member of First Baptist Church, Lamar, said Laughrey and Atwell are flirting with the idea of creating a law to fill in the blank where there is no law. For example, Emery said Laughrey’s ruling that the civil liability language in the new pro-life law “threatens an immediate chilling effect on all abortion counseling within Missouri and nearby states,” fills in the blank with the word “chilling.” In a constitutional republic, a judge ought not to do that, he said.
“That is simply not their constitutional role,” Emery said.
“Basically, we’re saying ‘there’s a line.’ It’s a jurisdiction issue.”
Blunt explained that the new law strengthens Missouri’s parental consent law by adding some reasonable provisions and safety standards. It provides additional barriers to taking a minor out of Missouri for an abortion to evade notifying the parents. It also stops individuals from facilitating a minor’s access to out-of-state abortion clinics without a parent’s knowledge or consent. The legislation specifically addresses intent, the governor said, so that trusted adults may continue to advise expectant minors about their options. By requiring that a physician has clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions, and another provision in the bill signed by the governor, a woman’s life could be saved if she develops complications resulting from an abortion.
“This is a good bill that does indeed advance the cause of human life,” Blunt said. “It reflects Missouri values, and most importantly, will reduce the number of abortions that occur in Missouri.”
A New Hamsphire parental consent law recently passed (one similar to Missouri’s) and is on the fall docket of the U.S. Supreme Court.