By Barbara Shoun
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri General Assembly gave the gift of life on its final day in session.
The House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation to require abortion providers to inform pregnant women of their risks prior to having an abortion.
Senate Bill 793 (SB 793) insures that mothers will also be fully informed of their unborn child’s characteristics and have the opportunity, if they want, to hear its heartbeat and to see its sonogram image.
Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Dexter, was sponsor of the bill, which was approved in April by the Senate with a vote of 26-5.
“Throughout my career, I have had a strong pro-life record, and today was really a big leap forward in protecting the lives of the unborn,” Mayer was quoted as saying at that time.
“I truly believe that anyone who can hear the heartbeat of these children, or see the pain the child goes through, and is told about the many options they have, will ultimately choose life.”
A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, and Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, as back-up in case the Senate version didn’t get through.
Days before the House was to vote on the Senate bill, Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), expressed concern that the legislation might be derailed on the final day by a filibuster. However, that didn’t materialize and the bill was approved in the House by a margin of 114-39.
Pro-life groups hailed the victory as a life-saving measure.
A statement released to supporters by Missouri Right to Life said the legislation would “significantly increase the information that a woman receives before deciding on abortion and allow Missouri to exclude abortion coverage from federal health insurance exchanges.”
MBC Executive Director David Tolliver said he is excited that the legislation will save a lot of lives.
“It’s been shown through the years that when women are able to see the baby in the womb, they save that baby,” he said. “Without that knowledge, they’re not made aware that it’s a child. When they learn it’s a child, they tend to save the child.”
Not everyone is happy with the turn of events, though.
Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, put out a statement May 12 on youtube.com decrying what would happen if the legislation were to become law.
“It will create additional burdens, costs, delays, and distress for every woman in this state seeking an abortion,” she said.
She stated that women would hear rhetoric that has “no medical or legal purpose.”
However, the bill gives a woman the right to know her medical risks, how to reach the abortion doctor with questions, and the location of a hospital where the doctor has medical privileges.
It also gives her the right to know about her child’s development, including the right to see an ultrasound picture and to hear her baby’s heartbeat.
Additionally, resources must be provided for the woman who chooses to give birth. Information should be given on adoption, and for the mother who chooses to keep her baby, extensive resources are to be made available through the Alternatives to Abortion program sponsored by Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services.
Messer said Gov. Jay Nixon has a difficult decision to make regarding the legislation. The governor, a Democrat, had the support of pro-abortion groups when he ran for office but has also stood behind the Alternatives to Abortion program when he could have withheld funding.
Messer is hopeful he will sign the legislation.
“He has been, to date, very reasonable in his treatment of pro-life agencies,” Messer said.