The first House hearing of the year to discuss abortion was held Tuesday. Some Republican lawmakers have proposed expanding the notification requirements for Missouri minors seeking an abortion.
State Representative Rocky Miller’s bill would require both parents of a minor child be notified prior that child having an abortion. Miller says he wants all parents to be aware of medical procedures being performed on their children.
“I wrote this bill because I was unaware a custodial parent could be left out of this monumental decision in Missouri,” said Miller.
Under current Missouri law, a custodial parent is notified of every medical action taken on behalf of their minor child except for an abortion. It only takes the consent of one parent for a minor to get an abortion. The other parent does not have to be notified.
Exemptions to the bill include medical emergencies or when the non-custodial parent has been convicted of specific crimes.
Opponents say there could be situations where the minor’s life could be endangered by notifying the other parent.
“I know that there are not perfect families that can have both of their parents or guardians notified of all kinds of decisions, let alone becoming pregnant, knowing that your family would not support you,” said State Representative Stacey Newman. “I believe that this is designed to actually shame a minor and put them in more jeopardy.”
Another bill that would change the consent process was proposed by State Representative Sonya Anderson. It would require a minor to obtain notarized consent from her parent or guardian before an abortion.
“Every provision in this bill is designed to better protect the health of the pregnant minor, the unborn child, and parental rights,” said Anderson. “You need to prove the identity of the parent or guardian to make sure that’s who they say they are.”
The bill would alter how young women obtain a court order to get an abortion in order to bypass parental consent. In case of a medical emergency the minor may obtain an abortion, but the physician is required to contact the parent or guardian within 24 hours to let them know.
Opponents say the judicial bypass system in the bill would make it more challenging for minors to get an abortion.
Sarah Rossi, director of policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said since the state’s only abortion clinic is in St. Louis where most attorneys willing to take up such a case reside, young women will have to find a way to make frequent trips to St. Louis. She says minors who live in a rural community might not be able to find a lawyer as willing to help.
“We’re talking about consent issues that are backed up by a new judicial bypass system that is exponentially more difficult than the old judicial bypass system,” said Rossi.
State Representative Linda Black presented a bill that would require the state health department to produce an informational video detailing the abortion procedure. Missouri has an “informed consent” law that requires physicians to present details of the procedure in written form, but Black says her bill would ‘enhance’ that.
“It would be a mere image of the printed form, but only in a narrative documentary form,” said Black.
Black said her bill would help people who are illiterate or do not learn well by reading. She said it addresses possible handicaps that people may have of interpreting and understanding the information.