Friday, June 23, 2017
Speaker of the House: We're even tougher on abortion than the Senate
The members of the Missouri House worked this week to amend and strengthen a piece of legislation sent over from the Senate to better ensure the health and safety of women by putting common sense safety requirements in place for abortion clinics.
The Governor called the legislature into a special session to enact the stronger safety regulations after a court ruling that struck down Missouri’s previous law requiring abortion providers abide by the same regulations as ambulatory surgery centers. The court also did away with a law that required a doctor providing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Senate Bill 5, handled in the House by Rep. Diane Franklin, makes many changes to current state law to address the issues created by court rulings. The bill allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to adopt rules governing complication plans to ensure patients undergoing abortions induced by drugs or chemicals have access to safe and reliable care. Abortion facilities would be required to provide affirmative evidence that each person authorized to perform abortions is a physician currently licensed to practice in Missouri. The health department will also be permitted to make unannounced on-site inspection of any abortion facility annually. Senate Bill 5 also requires that all tissue removed at the time of abortion be sent to a pathologist with seventy-two hours for examination.
While the version of Senate Bill 5 sent to the House provided a framework, the House wanted to strengthen the legislation even further. One of the provisions included by the House would prevent abortion clinic staff from requiring emergency responders to alter their normal response procedure by turning off lights or sirens. A second provision allows the attorney general to prosecute violations of state abortion laws with no obligation to wait on local prosecutors. Penalties for abortion clinics that do not comply with the requirements for submitting fetal tissue after an abortion were also strengthened by the House.
Components of Senate Bill 5 were also designed to address a city ordinance that has turned St. Louis into an abortion sanctuary city. The bill passed by the House protects the right of an "alternatives to abortion" agency to operate freely and engage in speech without governmental interference, and the right of a person not to be compelled by the government to participate in abortion contrary to his or her religious beliefs or moral convictions. In effect, the bill would pre-empt the St. Louis ordinance.
Senate Bill 5 now moves back to the Senate for further consideration.