Pro-life bill returns for another legislative battle
By Allen Palmeri
February 17, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Members of the Missouri Senate are for the second consecutive year supporting a pro-life bill that has already cleared one committee and seems headed for full Senate debate. The bill is sponsored by Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church.
Senate Bill 738, which would impose civil liability on any person violating Missouri’s informed consent law, is back for an encore in the General Assembly. Last year it died in the House of Representatives, but Sen. Matt Bartle, who chairs the Judiciary & Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee which passed the bill Feb. 2, is ready for round two. The informed consent law ensures that parents maintain the right to counsel their children who are considering an abortion.
“I have high hopes for it," said Bartle, a former chairman of the deacons at First Baptist Church, Raytown. “The pro-abortion folks are always tough to tangle with, and we’re going to have a battle on our hands again this year, but it makes good sense and I think we ought to do it."
Loudon, who assists Bartle as vice chairman on the committee, said he hopes to see the bill through the Senate in plenty of time for it to be steered to a pro-life House committee that can get it to the House floor. He also hopes to do this cleanly. Last year abortion supporters were able to tack on an amendment for a $1,000 cap to be placed on the damages in civil liability—a development that proved to be the kiss of death in the House.
“It’s a good bill," said Rep. Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, and Speaker Pro Tem of the House. “Last year I thought the penalty was so low. We got it late and there were a lot of Republicans who felt like it was watered down."
Rep. Susan Phillips, R-Kansas City, is one of three likely candidates among House committee chairpersons who would hear the bill. Phillips chairs the Children and Families Committee.
“If it comes over, I would like to hear it," said Phillips, sponsor of last year’s leading abortion bill, the 24-hour waiting period measure. It has yet to be enacted after prevailing thanks to an override of a gubernatorial veto and subsequent lawsuit that now has it tied up in federal court. “We would have a full hearing, and it would pass my committee. I think it will slow down the number of abortions," Phillips said concerning the proposed bill.
“We are driving the dialogue. I say to myself in the morning, ‘It’s not so important the bills that we pass, but what we talk about in the process and how we conduct ourselves.’ That says so much," she added.
Jetton, the number two person in the House and a member of New Salem Baptist Church in Marble Hill, said it is important for Republicans to remain aggressive when it comes to culture-war issues like abortion. A bill like Loudon’s hurts the abortionists in their pocketbooks.
“The courts keep killing us on the abortion issue," Jetton said. “We pass legislation and they declare it unconstitutional. Anything that we can pass that will make it harder to get abortions, make people think a little more before they get an abortion, is great. This is a perfect example."
Loudon’s bill targets the practice of people taking pregnant girls across the state line to the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., where there is no informed consent law. Loudon explained that Missouri law gives rights to parents only to have those same parental rights canceled at the Illinois abortion clinic, which advertises itself as being only 10 minutes from St. Louis.
“These people are taking minors across the state line, not talking to their parents, not having a chance to talk to their pastor," Jetton said. “Who knows what kind of emotions these young ladies are going through? It’s a terrible situation to be in, and they’re very susceptible to any kind of influence. I think there should be a pretty stiff penalty so that it really is a deterrent to making them do it."
The bill would make it possible for parents to sue anyone enabling a minor to obtain an abortion without the consent which is already required by Missouri law. Opposition to the bill is tantamount to support of lawlessness, Loudon said, in that the bill is consistent with Missouri law and seeks to remedy from Jefferson City a deficiency in Illinois law.
“It’s a travesty that here we are in 2004 still debating parental consent," said Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention. “The failure of this bill to clear the legislative process last year condemned another 400 children to the politically protected death chambers in Illinois . Let’s pray that we can pass this bill this year and encourage the governor not to veto it."