JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Although most betting men and women put their money on Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, carrying a bill to term for this special session on abortion, Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, instead became the unlikely sponsor of a piece of work built on compromise that few senators seem entirely happy about.
However, Sen. Bob Onder says it’s a “good bill.”
“My best estimate would be it did about two-thirds of the things that were in the governor’s call for a special session,” Onder said. “I think we’ll see now what the House does.”
Koenig’s original bill dealt specifically with giving the attorney general’s office original jurisdiction across the entire state for violations of abortion laws. However, the Manchester freshman now holds the omnibus bill that the Senate worked on all day last Wednesday and voted out 20-8 after little floor debate, but consensus that it was palatable for both parties.
So how exactly does Koenig’s bill differ from Onder’s original bill?
Koenig’s bill lacks some significant provisions that Onder’s contained, but they also share major similarities, including Koenig’s original jurisdiction language. The attorney general currently has original jurisdiction over only a handful of specific areas of law, including Medicaid fraud and some gaming laws among others, but some supporters believe it could be a necessary change as the state’s only abortion providers, namely the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, could be in a jurisdiction where a more liberal prosecutor would get elected and may not want to bring charges against such a facility.
Beyond that, both bills also include the effort to void a St. Louis ordinance via state law. The ordinance would protect women from employment or housing discrimination based on their reproductive choices, meaning a woman could not be fired by an employer for being pregnant or for having had an abortion. Opponents however say the ordinance is too broad and that it would force anti-abortion alternatives to abortion agencies and crisis pregnancy centers to hire employees who may be pro-abortion access or force landowners to lease to abortion clinics.
Koenig and Onder’s bills also share language regarding regulations on the reporting of fetal tissue by pathologists; whistleblower protections for employees of hospitals, pathology laboratories, health clinics, or any other abortion providers; a re-definition of abortion facility; and annual unannounced abortion facility inspections.
The inspections are currently allowed to be undertaken by the DHSS, but this new provision would mandate they occur.
“Abortion is of course controversial, so there’s a tendency to leave abortion clinics alone, and yet they’re doing invasive surgical procedures that I think the standard of care would require they be inspected regularly,” Onder said. “The Supreme Court spoke favorably of the law mandating annual inspections. Common sense health and safety measure, they’ve also survived constitutional scrutiny as well.”
There are some differences in exactly how the fetal tissue reports are reported. Onder’s bill provided 72 hours for the pathologist to have an analysis done and sent to the DHSS. Koenig’s bill lengthens that to five business days.
However, Onder’s bill went quite a bit further. First, his bill would have required the approval of a complication plan from the Department of Health and Senior Services for any drugs used in medical, or chemical, abortions if surgical intervention was required in more than 1 percent of instances after such a drug was used. This classification would apply to the mifepristone-misoprostol abortifacient combination typically used for medical abortions. There is typically a 2-3 percent chance a woman needs additional treatment after most medical abortions.
Onder’s legislation changed consent conferences, where the doctor performing the procedure or the referring physician must discuss possible complications for abortion and potential methods of abortion, as well.
The biggest one however, was the creation of a new crime of interference with medical assistance. If an employee of an abortion facility interferes with a medical professional administering aid to an abortion care patient, that would become a Class A misdemeanor.
All eyes turn to the House this week to see if some of Onder’s language is resurrected onto Koenig’s SB 5. The House Children and Families Committee is currently hearing the bill as of the publishing of this article (Monday morning), and the House will convene Tuesday to discuss the legislation.