JEFFERSON CITY – This year holds promise for pro-life advocates in Missouri as abortion rates in the state continue to decline. According to the latest report, Missouri’s abortion rate fell to 9,027 in 2012—down from 11,470 in 2007 and from 9,234 in 2011.
The steady decline in abortion follows from years of legislative battles in the Missouri General Assembly, resulting in a spate of pro-life bills: In 2010, the assembly passed legislation requiring women who seek an abortion to read a brochure affirming the truth that life begins at conception. In 2011, they passed a bill to increase restrictions on abortions of unborn babies who are 20 weeks or more. In 2012, legislators provided religious exemptions for the insurance coverage of birth control, and in 2013 they banned doctors from prescribing abortifacients via telemedicine.
Then, last year, the largely pro-life state legislature defeated Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto on a bill that tripled the waiting period for women seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. Because legislators did not provide an exemption for rape or incest, Missouri became only one of two states to have such a waiting period of 72 hours.
With such victories behind them, some pro-life advocates told the Kansas City Star in December that 2015 will involve relatively fewer and smaller battles over abortion. In contrast, Missouri Right to Life Legislative Liaison Susan Klein claims that the battle for life is by no means slowing down in the state.
“The numbers are better (because the abortion rate is falling),” she said, “but our battles are on multiple fronts and are bigger.”
While she expects to have a good year because of recent pro-life victories in a largely pro-life legislature, Klein adds that “being pro-life is not just about abortion anymore.”
“There was a time when (being pro-life) was focused on that one issue, but we’ve grown so much as a society and in our technological advances that we have to look at everything across the spectrum, as far as life goes.”
For this reason, Klein and other pro-life advocates say they must oppose Missouri House Bill 307, pre-filed by Democrat Kimberly Gardner, which establishes the “Missouri Death with Dignity Act,” allowing assisted suicide for patients with terminal diseases. Klein expects that this bill will be unsuccessful in Missouri.
More positively, pro-lifers will also advocate for legislation in 2015 that could further diminish the abortion rate in Missouri, such as one bill requiring consent from both parents before a minor can have an abortion. Another bill prohibits the use of public funds or incentives not only for abortion, but also for human cloning or embryonic stem cell research—a process in which human embryos are created and then killed for scientific purposes. Another bill prohibits abortion as a means solely for sex selection or for ending the life of a baby with genetic abnormalities.
But proposed legislation defending the sanctity of life is not limited to the issue of abortion. One bill, for example, ensures that parents (or legal guardians)—rather than a medical worker—will oversee the healthcare decisions for hospitalized children; it clarifies that a “do-not-resuscitate order” cannot be placed in a minor’s file without the consent of at least one parent or legal guardian.
Nevertheless, the highlight of this legislative session will be a bill requiring the state to perform a yearly, onsite inspection of abortion clinics, Klein said. Planned Parenthood—the largest abortion provider in the U.S., which boasted of performing 327,000 abortions nationwide in 2012—already has only one remaining clinic in Missouri.
On a larger scare, the inspection of Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation—especially through financial audits—revealed that these clinics have “systematically” overbilled taxpayers during the past two decades in order to provide revenue for the abortion industry, according to a recent report in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. But, according to Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a bill proposed in the U.S. Congress this year would restrict the use of federal tax dollars to fund abortion, cutting Planned Parenthood’s budget by nearly 41 percent.