JEFFERSON CITY - The fate of this year's anti-abortion effort in Missouri's legislature has been tossed to evenly divided legislative subcommittee composed entirely of women lawmakers.
Rep. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis and chairman of the Children, Youth and Families Committee, Wednesday referred five abortion-restriction bills to a six-member subcommittee with assignment to find a compromise.
The subcommittee is formed by six women who split 3-3 in last year's vote on the abortion-counseling bill that eventually was vetoed by the governor.
Dougherty has scheduled another session of the full committee for next Wednesday to take up whatever compromise is reached by the subcommittee.
Rep. Dana Murray, D-St. Louis, chairs the subcommittee. She voted for the abortion-counseling bill last year.
She conceded she is not confident about finding a compromise among the six women - that it most probably will take longer than one week.
Another supporter of last year's abortion-counseling bill on the subcommittee agreed.
"This is a very sensitive issue and both sides have their own ideas, it's just one issue that seems to be hard to arrive on a compromise," said Rep. Mary Lou Sallee, R-Ava.
One subcommittee member who voted against last year's bill declined comment. Other abortion-rights supporters in the legislature have said in the past that they see little room for compromise - that they are not willing to accept anything which interferes with a woman's right to an abortion.
The subcommittee will have to decide upon five different bills concerning abortion, including the so-called counseling bill.
Other bills in the list relate to the regulation of the abortion facilities and the doctors who would perform them.
Rep. Connie Cierpiot, R-St. Louis, said she sees the topic is about women's health and not of restricting abortion.
"It's going to be a good opportunity to at least see if the pro-choice women are serious about safe abortion," said Cierpiot, who is the third member of the committee who voted for last year's bill.
In order to get to an agreement, the subcommittee may come up with a combination of pieces of the five current bills. However, if there is a tie, the future of the bill would be again in Dougherty's hands.
Cierpiot is one of the members that feels more confident about the results. "We're going to have a bill come out of that committee (Children, Youth and Families). Whether or not we'll have a Mexican stand-off in this committee, it remains to be seen."
Also see the 1995 House rollcall on the abortion-counseling bill.