Senate fails to pass pro-life measure
Legislative session ends, supporters to continue fight
By Allen Palmeri
May 25, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, was disappointed to learn that her pro-life bill imposing civil liability for violating Missouri’s informed parental consent law lasted only 25 minutes in Senate floor debate on May 14, the last day of the General Assembly, before it was pulled by pro-life Senate Republican leadership to save floor time.
“I believe that it will move a lot faster (in 2005),” Cunningham said. “We’ll have new leadership, some fresh faces, some incentive to go with it.”
Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church, has sponsored the civil liability abortion law, which targets Missouri minors who are escorted by third parties to an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., for the last six years. He took Cunningham’s bill, a replica of his own Senate measure that had been languishing for most of the session, into the teeth of a filibuster led by Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis. Bray won the battle but Loudon grew stronger in the war.
“We know where their arguments are going to come from, and they’re very weak,” Loudon said. “We’ll be ready to make a hard run next year.”
Senate leaders held up Loudon’s bill from Feb. 2, when it cleared committee, to March 17, when it was placed on the informal calendar. After hearing the bill on the floor briefly April 1, the Senate again delayed action until April 27, when Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director David Clippard met with Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, to lobby for the bill, which would save an estimated 800 lives a year. Kinder made no promises to Clippard, but the House did put pressure on the Senate to consider it by passing Cunningham’s bill April 29.
“They (the Senate leaders) have stalled and have not worked to get those conservative priorities that they all run on,” said Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton and assistant pastor and ministry director for First Baptist Church, Belton. “Instead of standing up for conviction, they chose to squander that time. I don’t think that there was a real priority to do anything, and I think that’s sad.”
Cunningham does not blame the Senate. She said she respects Senate tradition but would like to see senators stop deferring to each other so much. The rule of calling for the previous question, or “PQ,” is frowned upon in the upper chamber. Senators would rather have the approval of a colleague who is filibustering — something Loudon calls “tyranny of the minority” moderating “tyranny of the majority”— than resort to “PQ.” Cunningham understands.
“There are some over there who take great pride in their ability to filibuster forever and ever,” she said. “You need a lot of time to just wait it out on a controversial issue. You get the bill out early and you just sit there and let somebody talk until they just give up. It takes a very long time.”
In some cases, it takes a very long time to even define simple terms. Loudon said Cunningham’s bill was about girls who are minors. Bray said it was about young women. Neither senator gave in to the other’s definition.
“You might call them women, senator, and that is a clever use of words, but if they’re under 17 they’re children,” Loudon said.
“You distort my words,” Bray said. “I said young woman.”
“Oh, a young woman!” Loudon exclaimed. “How about an old child?”
Loudon explained that he did not give in for two reasons. First, he was correct. Second, if he conceded the “young woman” language to Bray, he would have let her launch the argument that young women are capable of making their own decisions apart from parental input.
“They’re not capable,” Loudon said. “They are not women. Our law is Supreme-Court tested. They are children under their parents’ authority.”
Cunningham said she is optimistic about the pro-life bill’s chances in the 2005 General Assembly under presumptive House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill and a member of New Salem Baptist Church, Marble Hill.
“He’s very supportive of this issue,” she said. “I think he’ll be a marvelous leader. My guess is, the favorable attention that it got will cause us to bring it back earlier and fight for it.”
Loudon will be back to fight for it in the Senate, ever loyal to his pro-life Republican leadership in the Senate that may disappoint pro-life partisans but is there in authority nonetheless.
“God designed an authority,” Loudon said. “There’s an authority in the Senate. We’ve got our leadership, and if the leadership does not have the freedom to make decisions and live and die by them without the other members of the team running around undermining them, then your authority collapses. It’s chaos.”