JEFFERSON CITY- — In today’s hearings in the House Children and Family issues hearing, three separate abortion bills were proposed by the Republican majority.
Currently Missouri law requires only one parent to be notified for a minor to complete an abortion procedure. HB99 was proposed by Representative Rocky Miller, R-Lake of the Ozarks, and will require both parents to be notified prior to an abortion.
“The intent of this bill is to keep all parents aware of medical procedures being performed on their minor child,” said Miller.
There is also an emergency portion of the bill that includes items that can discount the parents from being notified. If one parent has committed a myriad of offenses such as prostitution, child abuse or neglect, sexual offenses or if the parents whereabouts are unknown, they are not required to be notified.
This raised several questions from Rep. Stacey Newman, D- St. Louis, who explained that these items are simply not enough to cover every single family that is not perfect or normal. Newman, an outspoken advocate for abortion rights, has also promised a comprehensive sex education bill before the end of session.
“We do not have complete ideal families in the state,” said Newman. “We do have two-parent families or guardians that would not fit under those exceptions that would still make it dangerous for a teen to notify. This is designed to actually shame a minor and put them in more jeopardy.”
There is no part of the bill that specifies how both parents are required to be notified of an abortion, whether that be written or verbal.
“Notification is a well documented legal principle,” said Miller. “To continue to describe what notification should be or looks like would be superfluous.”
The next bill was introduced by Representative Linda Black, R-St. Francois. HB124 requires the department of social services to produce a video in a facility setting by a physician which will include all of the information that is currently in the state mandated packet given to all women prior to an abortion. The video would provide narration of the gestational period of the unborn child, the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at the time, alternatives to abortion, procedures, pain or injury to fetus and mother, etc. Women would be required to view the video before receiving an abortion under HB124.
“This is a way to enhance what we already have in state statute, ” said Black. “It clearly brings the technology to the issue at hand and addresses those individuals with different learning styles or illiteracy and may not be able to read the printed information.”
Doctor Colleen McNicholas, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University testified against all three bills, but placed special emphasis on HB124. She explained that all women are given a 22-page packet with all the information they need to know regarding the procedure, and there is no need for another way to deliver the information. McNicholas said that the real change would be to re-work the existing booklet into an actual product of medial accuracy. She said she feels as though she is lying every time she hands a patient the booklet.
“As physicians, we’re taught every interaction with a patient must be done so within the framework of medical ethics,” said McNicholas.
One major misconception in the booklet is about when pregnancy actually begins. She explains that it is not at conception, and implementation is required for pregnancy. She also explains that fetal pain at the gestational age is not possible.
“Legislation such as this require physicians to lie to their patients,” McNicholas told the packed hearing room.
Rep. Newman asked several questions regarding the ethics of this legislation on the medical profession.
“Here we are as members who are not OBGYN’s, that have no background, yet mandating and putting your own profession and your own job at risk,” said Newman.
McNicholas continued to explain that these practices are guided by the American college of obstetrics and gynecology and the American academy of pediatrics, and both of these institutions have spoken out in objection to this type of legislation. Several more physicians from Washington University in St. Louis testified, and backed up McNicholas.
The parental involvement enhancement act was the final bill that was heard. Representative Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield, proposed that when minor (17 or younger) is seeking abortion, the parent/guardian must prove their identity. The bill requires a notarized signature by the parent/guardian with a valid birth certificate and drivers license.
“Every provision in this bill is designed to better protect the health of the pregnant minor, the unborn child and parental rights,” said Anderson.
If there is a medical emergency, however, the procedure may happen without proper proof of parental identity, but the physician must contact the parent within 24 hours. The bill also requires the minor and parent/guardian to check off a list stating they understand the risks that are involved with the procedure. Finally, if a minor chooses to seek a judicial bypass where they don’t want their parent or guardian to be aware of the procedure, they can do so, but it must be in the county of which they reside.
“Were talking about consent issues that is backed by a new judicial system that is exponentially more difficult than the old one,” said Sarah Rossi, Director of Advocacy and Policy for the ACLU of Missouri.
She testified against all three bills and explained the number of trips a woman would have to take back and forth from St. Louis, the sole abortion clinic in the state, if this legislation was passed.
“All these bills do is build upon what your predecessors did,” said Sam Lee, Director of Campaign Life Missouri. “When it comes to having parents being involved in your minor daughters’ decision, Americans overwhelmingly support that.”
Patricia Skain, Executive Director of Missouri Right to Life, also supported all three of these bills. She said that the definition of pregnancy has changed. Several minors from Southwest Missouri testified against all three bills, accounting their personal experiences with minors and sexual assault.
“Its very difficult to see how the legislature interrupts their decision to make a future for themselves,” said Charles Becker, a Southwest Missouri student representing minors.
Ellen Dempsher testified against HB124 and was brave enough to tell her abortion story in front of the committee. She said that she was offended by the wealth of information she was required to read before her abortion, and a video narrative of this information would be an insult to her intelligence.
“Having unprotected sex was one of the worst mistakes I have made in my life,” said Dempsher. “Having an abortion is one of the best.”