Last year, the General Assembly increased funding to alternatives-to-abortion and other pro-life programs by more than $6 million. This year, however, we were forced to shift our focus to the task of making sure that pro-life programs can continue their missions without government interference, and they can keep their First Amendment rights intact.
Earlier this year, the City of St. Louis passed Board Bill 203, which would hinder the ability of alternatives-to-abortion agencies to operate. The ordinance threatens penalties and fines if these institutions will not hire pro-choice candidates for a job or provide abortion coverage or contraception in their health insurance plans. The major problem with this ordinance is that it tramples on First Amendment rights. Similar ordinances in other cities have attempted to force alternatives-to-abortion agencies and faith-based pregnancy counseling centers to promote services not provided at the centers or have otherwise violated their First Amendment rights. The government has no constitutional power to interfere with the mission of these organizations. Government interference violates one of our most cherished rights as Americans – religious liberties.
This week, we debated Senate Bill 41, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, which will provide protections for alternatives-to-abortion agencies. This measure would preempt the St. Louis ordinance as well any others that might be proposed in the future. It also would allow the people of Missouri to freely practice their faith according to their conscience. No organization should be penalized for refusing to hire someone who would counsel in favor of abortion if it goes against the organization’s religious beliefs. This is a common-sense approach to people of all faiths.
Also debated on the floor this week was Senate Bill 67. The measure addresses glaring deficiencies and safety concerns uncovered by the Senate Sanctity of Life Committee in 2015 and 2016 and closes certain loopholes in the law. Senate Bill 67 will uphold medical standards, protect women, and ensure public safety. It also would add accountability and clarity while strengthening our current laws. Missouri women should not be subjected to the kinds of health and safety risks they often face in abortion clinics such as that exposed by the book Gosnell. The provisions of Senate Bill 67 are meant to ensure the health and safety of women in the Show-Me State as well as protect the religious freedoms of pro-life organizations.
We also spent time this week on Senate Bill 313 dealing with tax-credit funded Education Savings Accounts. Protecting children from abortion is important, but it is also important how we equip children to live out their God-given potential. That is the goal of Senate Bill 313 by providing options to parents for how their children will be educated. Parents know better than anyone else how best to meet the individual and special needs of their children. Regardless of how well the one-size-fits-all education model may fit a majority of students, it fails some. Senate Bill 313, in very limited fashion, attempts to address that minority of students who learn differently. It acknowledges the impact of learning on the immeasurable value of a child’s life.
Finally, the value of a life is reflected in his or her legacy: