JEFFERSON CITY – With just a little over 24 hours to go before the session closed, the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation protecting the lives of unborn babies in their final weeks before birth.
Sent to the governor’s desk was legislation which will prohibit the abortion of any infant after he or she has reached 20 weeks gestation.
Since unborn babies are considered “viable” at 20 weeks, an exception would only be made if carrying the baby full term would endanger the life of the mother or involve serious risk of great and permanent harm to one of the mother’s major bodily functions.
Viability is the stage at which it can be reasonably assumed that the unborn child can be sustained outside the mother’s womb with or without artificial support.
Bills sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Timothy Jones, R-Eureka and President Pro Tem of the Senate Rob Mayer, R-Dexter and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Dexter, were passed by overwhelming majorities.
Of the dozens of pro-life bills introduced, five made it to the final week. These included the viability legislation, umbilical cord blood education, reassignment of the Alternatives to Abortion program, a resolution honoring those who volunteer with pro-life services, and tax credit extension for donations to pregnancy resource programs. All but the tax credit extension passed.
“All in all, it’s a very good session,” said Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
One victory for the pro-life movement was the passage of legislation involving the use of public and private supplies of cord blood saved following the birth of a child.
Tishaura Jones’, D-St. Louis, House Bill 197 (HB 197) provides for the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to offer educational resources relating to umbilical cord blood. It passed unanimously.
The bill provides that publications are to address such factors as how cord blood cells may be used, stored, shared, and discarded. It provides that the information be given to pregnant women by their physicians prior to the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy.
The Alternatives to Abortion program is expected to better provide for the needs of expectant mothers as the result of a realignment of its structure from the DHSS into the Office of Administration.
Pregnancy care providers had complained that DHSS had written restrictions which were too cumbersome to implement, thereby depriving expectant parents of services that should have been readily available to them.
The Office of Administration was appropriated $1,583,561 for assisting pregnant women in carrying their unborn children to term rather than seeking abortions and to assist them in caring for their children or in placing them for adoption.
Volunteers who work with crisis pregnancy centers, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies were honored for their service and dedication with the passage of House Resolution 1826, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Long, R-Battlefield.
Volunteers were invited to be at the State Capitol for the vote, which took place May 10.
HB 166, sponsored by Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, would have extended the tax credit provision for those donating to the work of crisis pregnancy centers, pregnancy resource centers, and maternity homes. It failed in the waning hours of May 13, which means that the existing law will sunset next year unless it is extended in the 2012 Missouri General Assembly.
BARBARA SHOUN/contributing writer