After long debate and hours of intense negotiations, Missouri lawmakers have passed a sweeping measure that places further restrictions on abortions in the state, including a ban on abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
Gov Mike Parson signed the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act" at a small gathering at his office May 24, with members of the House and Senate and other pro-life leaders present.
“By signing this bill today, we are sending a strong signal to the nation that, in Missouri, we stand for life, protect women’s health, and advocate for the unborn,” he said in a written statement. “All life has value and is worth protecting.”
House Bill 126
, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon and a member of Assumption Parish in O'Fallon, initially began as a ban on abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. It was later revised in the Senate as an outright eight-week ban. Other measures include:
- a ban on abortion at later gestations, between 14 and 20 weeks, if the eight-week ban is struck down by the courts. Currently, Missouri law allows abortions through 21 weeks and six days, although statistics on abortion from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services show that some abortions have been performed 21 weeks and later;
- enactment of the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act,” which would ban all abortions in Missouri if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, a federal Human Life Amendment is adopted, or a federal Human Life bill is enacted;
- a ban on abortions for reasons including Down syndrome, race or gender;
- a requirement for a second custodial parent to be notified when a minor is seeking an abortion, with certain exceptions;
- an increase on medical malpractice insurance requirements for those who perform or induce abortions and adds additional insurance requirements for doctors who induce abortions using chemicals or drugs;
- recognition that God is the author of life and states that Missouri is a “sanctuary of life” that protects pregnant women and unborn children;
The bill has an exception in cases where the mother is at risk of death or serious physical harm. There is no specific written exception for cases of rape or incest; however, a woman would still be able to access abortion or emergency contraceptives up until eight weeks.
The House also voted in favor of an emergency clause for the two-parent notification provision to be effective upon the governor’s signature. The majority of the rest of the bill will go into effect Aug. 28.
"Today lawmakers here in the state of Missouri have taken a giant step forward for the pro-life movement," Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said in a statement. "We need to continue to show persistence and determination in proclaiming a culture of life. Know that the Archdiocese of St. Louis is committed to providing support, services and life-sustaining education to women during and after pregnancy, especially those who may feel frightened, alone or contemplating abortion."
A provision passed by the Senate is an expansion of the tax credit program for pregnancy resource centers. The bill removes the program’s annual cap of $3.5 million. It also will allow 70 percent of a donation to be tax-credit eligible; the program currently allows 50 percent of a donation to be eligible for a tax credit.
This is important for pregnancy resource centers, which often run out of available tax credits before the end of the year, said Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri. “As the number of abortions continues to go down, the needs of women who are choosing to carry their babies to term increases. Therefore, the services that should be available to them need to increase,” Deacon Lee said.
Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, who was behind the measure in the Senate, expressed disappointment that some concessions were made in the Senate’s version; however, he described it as “a very good pro-life bill.” Missouri now joins a number of other states, including Alabama and Georgia, to recently pass broad measures further restricting abortions. Onder said all of this places more pressure upon the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue.
“I think what we will see is a split between various circuits, and there will be pressure for the Supreme Court to revisit other poorly decided abortion decisions made throughout the years,” said Onder, a member of St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville. “We will see more action. I think the next abortion case will bring us in the right direction.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri announced May 28 that it filed a referendum petition to repeal the new law. The organization has until Aug. 28 to gather 100,000 signatures to place the issue on the 2020 ballot for a vote.
Schroer, a member of Assumption Parish in O’Fallon, previously cited his Catholic upbringing in his desire to protect unborn human life through this legislation.
“I hope through this we can have a continued dialogue on when life begins,” he said. “I believe that life begins at conception, and this is giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Deacon Lee added that the bill “continues Missouri’s strong commitment to protecting unborn children and helping pregnant women by declaring we are a sanctuary for life.”
Parson encouraged Missourians to get involved in efforts to support life, such as adoption, volunteering at a pregnancy resource center or joining with a faith community to provide support to individuals to choose life.
“Thanks to decades of pro-life leadership, Missouri recently hit an all-time low for the number of abortions," he said. "We’ve gone from a high of more than 20,000 in our state, to now below 3,000. By working together, we can continue to assist more Missourians in choosing life.”
The Archdiocese of St. Louis offers support for anyone who has had an experience with abortion. To learn more, visit archstl.org/hope-healing or call the Respect Life Apostolate at (314) 792-7555.