These are potentially good days for Missouri’s children and pregnant moms who need assistance.
Gov. Eric Greitens recently signed a bill into law that will safeguard children across the state, especially those in foster care. Known as Senate Bill 160, sponsored by Reps. Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) and Cloris Brown (R-St. Louis) along with Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville), the new law is designed to ensure the protection of children from human traffickers, making the act of sex trafficking of minors a form of child abuse. It also bans people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children from coming within 500 feet of children’s museums.
The bill also requires that children be informed – in writing – of their rights whenever taken into custody by police or juvenile authorities. The new law also allows the Department of Social Services to keep reports of child abuse when the perpetrator of the abuse is known, basically creating a file on the abuse of children. Presently, the department destroys such records if there is insufficient evidence against the alleged perpetrator.
At the ceremony marking the signing of the bill into law, the governor captured the moment beautifully, sounding like he had just read Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a gift from God.”
“These are our kids,” he said. “The 13,000 kids in the state of Missouri in the foster care system, they are both, in law and in spirit, our kids. We all have to find a way to step up and help every single one of them recognize all of their God-given potential.”
The new law comes on the heels of Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley declaring war on human/sex trafficking in the state. Hawley announced earlier this year that his office is targeting human traffickers through new regulations under consumer protection laws, which are typically used to combat unfair trade practices. It gives law enforcement additional tools to go after traffickers, particularly businesses that serve as a front for human trafficking rings, as well as individuals who force victims into labor or prostitution to pay insurmountable debts, or debt bondage.
But, there is more good news.
The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill June 20 by a vote of 110-38, tightening the state’s abortion restrictions. The bill makes mandatory annual inspections of abortion clinics and gives the attorney general new authority to prosecute violations of abortion laws. The House vote comes after the Senate passed a less restrictive bill.
Greitens, who called the special session to deal with the abortion issue, prefers the House version, which must now go back to the Senate for approval. It is not known when the full Senate will convene to take up the issue, although some reports say it will not happen until after the Fourth of July. The House and Senate have until August to hammer out a final bill.
Greitens called the special session in response to a St. Louis ordinance banning discrimination in employment and housing based on “reproductive health decisions” and after a federal judge struck down a state law, which is being appealed, tossing out requirements that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards.
The House version that the Senate will consider gives the attorney general authority to bypass local prosecutors to enforce abortion laws. The bill also requires annual, unannounced inspections of abortion clinics and mandates that abortionists meet with women at least 72 hours in advance to preview potential risks.
Another key part of the House bill requires all baby parts from abortions – with exceptions for tissue used to identify potential medical problems, needed by authorities or used for a paternity test – to be submitted to a pathologist in five days for review. Pathologists would have three days to compare the baby’s body parts and abortion report, issuing their findings to the state. If there are discrepancies, it would trigger an unannounced inspection. Bill supporters are hopeful it will inhibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from selling baby body parts.
The bill also overturns the evil St. Louis ordinance that bans discrimination in housing and employment based on “reproductive health decisions.” The ordinance meant volunteers working at Crisis Pregnancy Centers could be denied their First Amendment rights if they spoke against abortion. The outrageous ordinance could also force the centers to hire pro-abortion volunteers or face legal action.
Greitens wants the Senate to pass the stronger House version – and rightly so. The Republican Party fancies itself as the pro-life party. It is time they act like it. Call your state senator and urge passage of the House bill.