State Supreme Court hears abortion case
A law requiring a 24-hour wait before having an abortion
is now before the high court
By Allen Palmeri
November 15, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY —A law requiring a 24-hour wait before having an abortion in Missouri that, for the most part, has been languishing in litigation since September 2003, is moving within the legal system again.
The Missouri Supreme Court actually heard the case Nov. 8, giving hope to Missouri Southern Baptists and other pro-life citizens that a favorable decision may be forthcoming. Elected representatives and senators voted to enact the law by overriding a gubernatorial veto, but non-elected judges have bottled it up in federal and state courtrooms for more than two years.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous that we’ve had to wait this long for any kind of judgment (on the 24-hour wait law),” said Rodney Albert, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission. “The judiciary is once again interfering with the right of the people to govern themselves. Missourians have clearly spoken to this issue. We want such a weighty issue to be given time for deliberation in the minds of vulnerable women who are in crisis mode. To wait 24 hours after being given vital information about this horrendous procedure is a reasonable request and could not in any stretch of the imagination be considered unconstitutional.”
Planned Parenthood, which typically challenges every pro-life law that comes out of Missouri’s State Capitol on the basis that each one is unconstitutionally vague, is up against Attorney General Jay Nixon, who is pro-choice but bound to defend state law, in the current Supreme Court case. Nixon, a Democrat, has delegated his duty to one of his state attorneys, Victorine Mahon, who is arguing that a statute does not have to be “a model of clarity” to be upheld, according to Scott Holste, a spokesman in the Attorney General’s Office. Holste added that part of Mahon’s argument in the case is that it is presumed to be constitutional that doctors are able to use their best medical judgment in particular cases.
A final ruling by the judges is expected to be made public late this year or early next year.
In 2003, then-Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, vetoed the bill only to have lawmakers muster the votes to over-ride it. The law went into affect briefly, but it has been tied up in court thanks to separate federal and state appeals. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in June 2004, and the state appealed that order, the Associated Press reported. The appeals court has not yet ruled.
The state lawsuit also was filed in June 2004, and a Boone County Circuit Court judge upheld the law against the vagueness challenge, prompting Planned Parenthood’s appeal to the state Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported.
Planned Parenthood officials have stated that if the state Supreme Court rules in their favor, the federal court challenge will be moot.
Planned Parenthood operates the only two abortion clinics inside of Missouri’s borders—one in Columbia and one in St. Louis. Another abortion clinic in Springfield, which was not run by Planned Parenthood, closed in October.
Another pro-life law concerning partial birth abortion has been stalled for six years by U.S. District Court Judge Scott O. Wright.
Blunt, whose public policy as governor has been consistently anti-abortion, has stated that judges should attempt to craft decisions that reflect the values of the taxpayers that they work for.