A Missouri House committee passed legislation to regulate abortion in the second week of a special legislative session called by Republican Governor Eric Greitens.
Lawmakers are considering proposals in response to a federal judge’s decision tossing out two laws earlier this year.
Rules requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and for clinics to meet hospital-type standards for outpatient care were scrapped by a federal bench in Kansas City after Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit.
Planned Parenthood sued the state after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that’s almost identical to the Missouri rules.
The House measure replaces the Senate bill with tougher language in four specific areas. It contains elements of House bills which were approved in committee last week while the Senate passed its own plan through the full chamber.
Among other things, House measure going to the floor Tuesday strengthened requirements for tracking of fetal tissue after an abortion procedure. A controversial 2015 video has been portrayed by Republicans across the country as an example of Planned Parenthood profiting from the sale of fetal parts.
The provision in the House measure is intended to prevent trafficking of fetal tissue in Missouri. It requires all tissue removed at the time of abortion be sent to a pathologist for examination within twenty-four hours, instead of the version approved by the Senate which allows five days for the transaction.
The lower chamber’s committee proposal also fortifies the portion from the Senate bill that gives the attorney general jurisdiction to prosecute individual abortion cases throughout the state. The House committee’s measure does away with the local prosecutor’s right of first refusal for jurisdiction.
The committee’s chair, Republican Diane Franklin of Camdenton, thinks her panel’s bill has stronger language than a Senate plan to dismantle a St. Louis city ordinance. The city passed a law earlier this year that prohibits discrimination based on reproductive health decisions such as abortion and contraception.
Franklin also notes the House committee proposal calls for risks and possible complications from abortions to be explained to patients by the physician performing the procedure, not merely a qualified professional as current law stipulates.
Representative Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was instrumental in implementing the changes made in the House committee Monday.
He said the most important additions made to the legislation were a plan to insure patient safety if complications occur during a procedure, and a requirement for clinics to have a protocol for emergency situations.
Clinics would have to have a system in place to transfer patients to nearby hospitals if complications required further medical care.
Attorney Anna Shabin, who lectures at Washington University in St. Louis, testified against the Senate bill as introduced in Monday’s House committee hearing. She thinks the proposal is so broad that it’ll be struck down by the courts.
“I’m happy to support women’s health” said Shabin. “I’m not quite sure that this bill does anything to further women’s health, and that it would pass muster under that legal standard.”
Barnes contends the Supreme Court’s decisions back up the legislature’s move to strengthen regulation of abortion.
“The Supreme Court has always held, and continues to hold, that states have the power to protect the health and safety of patients” Barnes said. “And these bills ensure that that authority will continue.” He thinks the state’s at risk of becoming a regulatory desert for abortion under current conditions.
The ranking minority member of the committee, Democrat Sue Meredith of St. Louis County thinks the language added Monday, too closely resembles the original bill introduced in the Senate last week that members of the upper chamber rejected.
“In my opinion, since the Senate did not accept that bill in the first place, the odds are they probably will not vote for it.” Meredith thinks the legislature is in danger of getting bogged down for extended period of time over passing an abortion bill.
There’s been speculation House members would seek to strengthen the abortion legislation passed by the Senate because some members will face primary contests next year, and it’s thought Governor Greitens might come out against lawmakers who don’t push for a stronger abortion bill.
The full House takes up the measure passed out of committee Tuesday morning. If it passes the proposal, the Senate will have to vote on the issue again since changes were made to its abortion bill.