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House Committee Passes Abortion Bill

September 12, 2005
By: Katie Peterson
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate sponsor of the Missouri legislature's anti-abortion measure told a House committee Monday that clergy should be sued if they assist minors to get abortions without parental consent.

"If you're a clergy that's intending that these minors do all of that -- skip the judicial option and go to Illinois -- then you probably ought to be prosecuted or brought to court civilly," Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, told the House Children Committee.

Loudon was responding to critics who charge his Senate-passed bill could lead to lawsuits against clergy and others who counsel pregnant teens.

A provision in the bill allows suits to be brought against any person who assists a minor to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

The bill was sparked by an abortion clinic in Illinois where parental consent is not required.

After a short hearing by the committee, the bill was approved by the committee -- clearing the way for expected debate on Wednesday.

The committee made no changes in the version passed by Senate after an almost 12 hour debate on the Senate floor last Thursday.

The bill adds three changes to Missouri's abortion restrictions:

+ It would require a doctor performing an abortion to have clinical privileges within 30 miles of a hospital of where the abortion takes place.

+ It would allow civil legal action against anyone who assists a minor to get an abortion without judicial or parental consent.

+ It restricts who can petition a court for a minor's abortion if the parents refuse.

Rep. Beth Low, D-Jackson County, and Rep. Jeanette Oxford, D-St. Louis, were the only committee members to voice opposition to the bill -- which passed with an 8-2 vote.

"I'm afraid that rather than going through court procedures, girls will now be seeking abortion without any help from adults," Low said.

Oxford proposed an amendment to the bill that consisted of providing emergency care for rape victims, prohibiting government restrictions on access to contraception, and reestablishing a family planning program that was cut three years ago. "We need to take a stand for prevention of abortion," Oxford said.

The amendment was quickly ruled out of order. The committee's chair, Rep. Susan Phillips, said the amendment violated the constitution by going beyond the subject matters raised by the governor in calling the special session.

"We can not add anything. I know there a lot of ideas, but we must remain within the three points of the governor's call," she said.

A similar family-planning proposal was ruled out of order last week in the Senate on the same grounds.

Pamela Sumner of Pro-choice Missouri and Traci Gleason, the Public Affairs Director of Planned Parenthood presented in opposition to the bill before the committee.

Sumner predicted "millions of dollars in wasted defense" by the state of Missouri upon passage of the bill by her organization due to what she claims is the "unconstitional and vague wording" in the bill.

Those who presented in favor included Larry Weber representing the Missouri Catholic Conference and Campaign Life Missouri and Susan Klein of the Missouri Right to Life. "This bill is looking out for women's best interest," Klein said in reference to the clinical privileges doctors must posses within 30 miles of the hospital of where the abortion occurs.