The Missouri Senate is expected to reconvene sometime after the Fourth of July holiday to consider pro-life legislation.
In a special session called by Gov. Eric Greitens, the Senate passed SB 5, which would amend Missouri law to pre-empt local governments from enacting laws that adversely affect legal rights of individuals based on their view of abortion, require abortion clinics to be inspected annually and gives the Missouri attorney general greater authority to enforce Missouri's abortion laws.
The measure headed to the House last week, and was amended to include additional provisions. Those include a requirement for abortion clinics to devise a plan for managing medical emergencies; a requirement for all fetal tissue (not just a representative sample) from abortion to be sent for pathology exam; whistleblower protections for employees involved with abortion; and a provision that would make it illegal for abortion clinics to instruct first responders not to follow protocol when responding to an emergency at an abortion clinic.
Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), who sponsored one of the original bills, said he is optimistic that the Senate will pass the measure; any delay at this point, he said, is an effort to coordinate schedules at a time when the legislature isn't normally in session.
"The Senate passed a good bill that contained about two-thirds of the things in the governor's call," said Onder, a member of St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville. "The House passed an even better bill that contained all of the elements of the governor's call. I am very optimistic that every Republican member of the Missouri Senate is pro-life, and it's just a matter of getting enough members there that we can get this bill passed."
The Missouri Catholic Conference has urged people to contact their senators in support of SB 5, noting that it addresses the St. Louis "abortion sanctuary" ordinance and provides "common sense safety regulations for abortion facilities."
Offering his gratitude to Greitens for calling the special session, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said that "now is the time for all Catholics and people of good will to act to protect the most defenseless in our nation and in our state."
The archbishop has spoken out against St. Louis City ordinance (70459), which provides a protected class status to any woman who chooses to have an abortion and those who support her in that action — while also discriminating against those who promote pro-life alternatives. The language also creates protections for anyone who has "made a decision related to abortion," even when the abortion is not their own.
A federal lawsuit filed last month by Our Lady's Inn, St. Louis archdiocesan elementary schools and O'Brien Industrial Holdings LLC and Frank Robert O'Brien asserts that the ordinance's limited religious exemptions are vague and undefined and do not cover individuals affiliated with organizations that may be exempt. It also forces private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans, despite sincere objections by company owners.
"This horrible piece of legislation will now force city residents to be unwilling participants in the abortion business by requiring business owners and individuals to tacitly approve any 'reproductive health' decisions made by their employees or tenants," Archbishop Carlson previously said.
The lawsuit noted that the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent, as well as state and federal laws.
Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, said if the Senate bill passes, it would be the strongest, most comprehensive pro-life bill passed in Missouri in a decade. Groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri and others are "working overtime" to defeat the Senate bill, he noted.
"I'm very proud of those state lawmakers who are standing firm in defense of life," Deacon Lee said. "They are protecting the health and safety of pregnant women and girls considering abortion, and are defending the First Amendment rights of pregnancy care centers and people of faith. State legislators need to be hearing from their pro-life constituents that they want the measure passed and sent to the governor's desk for his signature."
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>> Action alert
The Missouri Catholic Conference is urging people to contact their Senators in support of SB 5.
The MCC has created a precomposed message to send to senators, which can be found here: www.stlouisreview.com/bSo.
To find your senator's direct contact information, visit www.senate.mo.gov/LegisLookup.