The Missouri House has given initial approval to a proposal to ban most abortions after a fetus is 20-weeks-old.
The legislation creates the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” in which abortions would be prohibited after the designated period unless necessary to avoid a woman’s death or serious risk of loss of a major bodily function.
A doctor who violated the restriction would be subject to discipline by a licensure board.
Supporters of the bill, including the groups Concerned Women for America and Missouri Right to Life, say there is scientific evidence a fetus can feel pain 22 into a pregnancy and abortion at or after that age is painful for the fetus.
Opponents of the proposal include Naral Pro-Choice Missouri, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. They claim the bill is unconstitutional and say if there’s an issue with the development of the fetus, it is more humane to allow it to be aborted painlessly instead of being born into a short life of pain.
If the measure is passed into law, Missouri would join roughly 20 other states with similar restrictions. Most of those states start counting abortion two weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, although Mississippi and North Carolina start the process immediately afterward and have a strict ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
A new law in Mississippi to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks was blocked by a federal judge a week ago while the court considers further action. The U.S. Senate rejected a federal ban after 20 weeks in February.
The same measure initially passed by the Missouri House yesterday was introduced last year. It failed to get a vote on the House floor. Both bills have been sponsored by Republican Representative Donna Lichtenegger of Jackson.
Following the 2017 session, several major pro-life organizations complained publicly that lawmakers had passed little meaningful abortion legislation.
Republican Governor Eric Greitens subsequently called a special session to focus on abortion. During that time, the GOP dominated legislature approved a number of provisions meant to reintroduce restrictions on abortion clinics after federal courts had tossed out some Missouri laws.
The legislature did not a address time limits on the procedure at that time.
The current legislation will still need one more vote in the House before it can move to the Senate.