Bills help unborn children
JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) was active once again throughout the 2007 Missouri General Assembly in the person of Christian Life Commission (CLC) Lobbyist Kerry Messer.
Many bills were worked. Here is a look at some of the measures that passed and some of the measures that failed:
Senate Bill 577, introduced by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, and Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, encompasses the Missouri Health Improvement Act of 2007.
To be known as MO HealthNet, the law modifies provisions relating to the state’s Medicaid program.
At the urging of Gov. Matt Blunt, an anti-abortion Republican who attends Second Baptist Church of Springfield, language was written into the legislation that allows unborn children to be included in the program. To date, Missouri is only the 10th state to include unborn children.
House Bill 327, sponsored by Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was part of legislation referred to as the Quality Jobs Act.
One amendment to the lengthy law is a clause increasing the amount the state will offer as a tax credit to those who donate toward the operation of maternity homes.
The legislation increases the cap on such tax credits from $2 million to $3 million. However, that does not mean that all donors will receive the credit. No further credits will be issued when the cap is reached.
While this might be of particular concern for large corporate donors, it should be noted that the cap has never been exceeded.
House Bill 818, sponsored by Doug Ervin, R-Kearney and a deacon at First Baptist Church of Kearney, concerns health insurance reform. A portion of the bill offers more protection to Down’s syndrome babies who are often the target of abortion. Language in the bill refers to “the unnecessary abortion” of unborn humans with Down’s syndrome or other prenatal diagnosed conditions.
A health care provider, under this legislation, is required to give certain information to a patient who receives a positive result from a prenatal test for Down’s syndrome or other condition, including current information about the tested conditions, accuracy of the tests, resources for obtaining support services, and referrals to support service providers, including the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Services Program.
Senate Bill 430, introduced by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, would have lifted the current loss limit of $500 per two-hour period in gambling facilities as set by the Missouri Constitution. Gambling interests flexed their muscle by advancing their ideas forcefully in the Republican-dominated Senate, but once again Messer worked with a coalition of anti-gambling lobbyists to deny the billion-dollar industry the law it is coveting to rake in even more money. Messer was quoted extensively in a May 15 Pathway article about the threat this bill presented.
House Joint Resolution No. 11, introduced by Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, would have presented a clear definition of the term “human cloning” and would have allowed Missouri residents to vote in November on whether to make such cloning unlawful.
Supported by pro-life interests, the bill was killed in the House Rules Committee with three “yes” votes, four “no” votes, and one “present.” Committee Chair Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, and Mike Parsons, R-Bolivar, broke ranks with their Republican colleagues to cast two of the “no” votes.
Messer said the loss leaves pro-life advocates with only one option – to work with a coalition of interested groups on a citizens’ initiative. He said he has been in discussions with those groups to try to determine what that initiative project will look like.
House Joint Resolution No. 19, sponsored by Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles whose home church is First Baptist, Harvester, in St. Charles, would have provided for amending the Missouri Constitution to permit individuals to pray or express their religious beliefs in public so long as those expressions are voluntary and not disruptive.
The amendment, if approved by Missouri voters in an election, would have applied specifically to public school students as well as others. The amendment also would have required that public schools receiving state funds be required to display the text of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in a conspicuous place.
Messer pointed out that the legislation is an attempt to clarify rights that already exist, even though those rights are often ignored, denied or oppressed.
House Bill 120, introduced by Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, would have put restrictions on the nature, size and number of billboards and signs advertising adult cabarets or sexually-oriented businesses.
Neither HB 120 nor its companion Senate Bills 27 and 300, introduced by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a member of Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, went very far.
“It is making us scratch our heads as to how deep the pornography influence really is in the State Legislature,” Messer said.
Time ran out for House Bill 213, introduced by Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, which would have required colleges and universities to grant students “intellectual diversity” and academic freedom.
The proposed legislation stemmed from a situation encountered by Emily Brooker, a student at Missouri State University in Springfield. Brooker was threatened with failing grades and loss of her degree when she refused to sign a letter endorsing adoption by homosexual couples, even though she had completed all other class requirements.
The law was designated the “Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act.” Brooker’s legal action against the university resulted in the university’s commissioning an external review of its Social Work Department. The review turned up evidence of discrimination on the basis of student beliefs, particularly those of students from Christian backgrounds.
Cunningham’s bill required that public institutions address how they will promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom and how they will make sure students know their rights and the methods of reporting violations.
House Bill 802, sponsored by Rep. Sam Page, R-St. Louis, would have required that each female student in sixth grade receive immunization against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is transferred by sexual contact and can cause cervical cancer.
As originally presented, the required vaccines would have applied to girls in private and religious schools as well as those in public schools.
With the help of Messer and other pro-family advocates, the bill was rewritten so children would not be required to participate in the program. The law, as proposed at the end of the session, would have made the program voluntary and would have served as an educational tool for parents.
“My driving motivation has been to prevent any mandatory HPV vaccination program and to prohibit information related to sexual activity or STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) from being put in the hands of every 11-year-old girl in this state,” Messer said.
He noted he would not be strongly opposed to the idea of a parental education program so parents can make independent health care decisions for their children. The program required private school involvement, he said, and the state’s involvement at that level was unacceptable.
House Bill 821, sponsored by Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, would have required that women seeking abortions after 20 weeks gestation be given information about their babies’ capacity to feel pain.
Secondarily, women who chose to have abortions would have also been given the option of having anesthesia or an analgesic administered to the baby prior to the abortion.
Senate Bill 5, introduced by Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, would have put tighter restrictions and stronger penalties on sexual predators.
The law makes provisions for child sexual abuse victims to sue their violators for physical or psychological injury until the age of 31 or within three years of discovering that the harm was caused by childhood sexual abuse, whichever occurred later.
It specifies the conditions under which a child predator may be eligible for probation, parole, or conditional release and when parole will be denied.
The law defines child pornography as a C class felony if the person possesses more than 20 images of child pornography.
It promotes the use of multi-jurisdictional enforcement groups that are investigating Internet sex crimes against children and specifies that no more than 3 percent of money appropriated by the Legislature for such task forces be used for administrative costs of the program. Instead, appropriations are to be used for investigation, training, equipment, supplies, and services.
The law also gives the courts leeway to adjust child custody arrangements if a parent is romantically or intimately involved with anyone required to register as a sex offender.
Another Loudon bill, Senate Bill 651, would have defined some parameters of implanting human embryos. The law would have made it a crime to select a human embryo for implantation based on its gender.
It also would have made it a crime to transfer genetic material to and from humans and non-humans.
Loudon also introduced Senate Bill 669, which would have made it official that the state’s calendar use only the designations AD (Anno Domini) and BC (Before Christ).
Senate Bill 72, introduced by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, would have required pharmacies and licensed pharmacists to dispense contraceptives or be subject to disciplinary action. The concern of pro-life advocates was that pharmacists would lose their licenses if they were to refuse to fill prescriptions for the so-called “morning after pill.”
Senate Bill 161, introduced by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, would have established a quality rating system for child care facilities, both publicly and privately sponsored, including church-operated programs.
Church programs—which are currently exempt—would have been in danger of receiving lower ratings if their curriculum did not conform to state regulations.