By Barbara Shoun
JEFFERSON CITY—A bill requiring women to be fully informed of their risks before consenting to an abortion has passed the Missouri Senate, and pro-life advocates are optimistic that it will become law.
Senators voted 26-5 in favor of Senate Bill 793 (SB 793) April 22, and sent it to the House of Representatives where it received its first reading the same day. The bill had its second reading April 26.
Passage requires it be read a second time, assigned to a committee for hearings, and be read once more in the full House, where it can be debated and amended into final form before the vote can be taken.
“The fact that the House heard the bill on the same day is significant,” said Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
“That indicates the leadership wants this bill, wants it fast, and doesn’t want to risk losing time. The leadership, in this regard, is being very conscientious to make sure this bill has every possible advantage for passing.”
The forward movement of SB 793 was good news to David Tolliver, executive director of the MBC.
“I’m cautiously hopeful this law will go forward,” he said. “It will be a big help in lowering the number of abortions just by getting this information out.”
Tolliver said he understood that the number of abortions in Missouri had already declined and said the number should continue to decline “once each woman sees a sonogram. They need all the information we can get them.
“I’m hopeful because we know the House has already given its stamp of approval for something similar. I’m thrilled, but it’s not done until the governor signs, and we’re praying it will pass and be signed by the governor.”
SB 793 was introduced by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter and a member of First Baptist Church, Dexter, and seeks to require full disclosure of medically-accurate information at least 24 hours before a woman has an abortion.
The bill specifies, among other things, that the physician who is to do the abortion must personally inform the woman of:
• the proposed method;
• her immediate and long-term medical risks;
• the location of a nearby hospital where he or she has medical privileges;
• how he or she can be reached by phone;
• information on the development of the unborn child; and
• resource information for the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program.
In addition, the mother is to be given the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat, receive a free ultrasound in order to see a sonogram image of the child, and be referred to supportive programs and resources if she chooses to give birth.
While SB 793 has been making its way through the Senate, a nearly identical companion bill was passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate in the event SB 793 should falter.
HB 1327 was filed by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, and was later combined with HB 2000, filed by Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs. The combined bill was approved by the House in a vote of 113-37 March 30.
“We cannot emphasize enough the necessity of prayer from folks in churches across the state,” Messer said.
“We expect to see a good version of a couple of pro-life issues coming through the Legislature in this 2010 General Assembly; but, until that is accomplished, put on the governor’s desk, and signed into law, all we can do is to continue to invest our salt and light in the process.
“All of the pro-life groups engaged in Jefferson City are encouraging the House to pass SB 793 as-is.”
Messer said that Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, will be in a difficult situation if it passes both houses of the General Assembly, as he will be receiving pressure from both sides. The pro-abortion industry supported Nixon in his election bid and will lobby him hard to veto the bill if it passes.
While pro-life groups refer to the bill as an informed consent bill, Planned Parenthood refers to it as an abortion restriction bill. The organization’s Capitol lobbyist, Michelle Trupiano, in a release dated April 15, charged that the bill “intrudes on the doctor/patient relationship and adds many new burdensome and unnecessary requirements to the informed consent process for abortion.”
Messer said it’s important to understand that pro-life advocates are not trying to be critical of the governor.
“It should be duly noted that he has been, to date, very reasonable in his treatment of pro-life agencies,” he said, “particularly in his request for full funding of the Alternatives to Abortion program and his pro-active defense of the funding when he could have very easily withheld that money.
“Because we have had the privilege of building good relations with Governor Nixon and his staff over a variety of issues, we know that explicitly pro-life legislation could be a difficult topic for him to deal with,” he continued.
“However that works out, we still have an obligation to pray for our leaders. We would like to maintain a working relationship with the governor with issues we are able to agree on and pray that the stresses and strains do not interrupt that.”
Messer likened the hectic final weeks of negotiating legislation to a sausage grinder.
“The general public doesn’t always understand, but there are elected people here who represent pro-abortion constituents, and the process does accommodate their involvement.”
Missouri’s 95th General Assembly will conclude at 6 p.m. May 14.