JEFFERSON CITY – More than 80 members of the Missouri House of Representatives have signed on to close a loophole that allows the abortion of late term babies.
House Majority Floor Leader Rep . Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, is sponsoring House Bill 213 which seeks to define the “viability” of an unborn child as well as defining situations in which the mother’s life would be endangered by continuing the pregnancy.
An identical companion bill, Senate Bill 65, was filed by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter and a member of First Baptist Church, Dexter, president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.
Mayer saw the successful passage of his Senate Bill 793 last year which requires abortion providers to counsel a prospective patient 24 hours ahead of time regarding her risks, medical procedures, the child’s development, and alternatives to abortion.
They must also give an expectant mother the chance to hear her baby’s heartbeat and to see its sonogram image.
However, the more specific regulations did not address the abortion of viable infants. That is what Mayer and Jones are attempting to clarify.
Of his commitment to pro-life issues, Mayer said, “Throughout my legislative career, I have worked tirelessly to take steps to protect the lives of our unborn children.
“Senate Bill 65 is an extension of that effort and would make sure that an abortion could not be performed, except in the case of a medical emergency putting the mother’s life at jeopardy, if the unborn child is more than 20 weeks old in fetal gestation and found viable.”
The term “viable” refers to the baby’s ability to survive outside the womb, with or without artificial support.
Only in a medical emergency could a viable unborn child be aborted unless the abortion were necessary to preserve the life of the mother.
Medical emergencies would include life-endangering physical disorders, physical illness, physical injury, or the risk of “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” if the pregnancy is continued. The proposed legislation lists 11 systems which could be included in the definition of “major bodily function.”
“The purpose of this bill is to end late-term abortions as they stand in Missouri,” Jones said.
“Current Missouri law leaves a lot open for interpretation as to whether or not we truly do have a late-term abortion ban. We believe this bill closes the loopholes and prohibits late-term abortions, subject to the constitutional framework we have in the nation.”
Once a doctor determines the child to be viable and the mother’s life to be endangered, he or she must contact a second doctor to agree with the findings before performing an abortion. As with the abortion doctor, the second physician must have knowledge of accepted obstetrical and neonatal practices and must not be affiliated with the first doctor.
To perform a late term abortion without the safeguards of the law would be a Class C felony, punishable by at least one year in prison, a fine of $10,000-$50,000, and suspension of one’s medical license for three years.
“As much as some people may want us to seek to ban abortions altogether, we are really limited in going down that route because of current federal law,” said Jones.
“We want to pass a bill that will survive the court challenges.”
BARBARA SHOUN / contributing writer