JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The bulk of the Children and Families committee hearing was taken up by a bill relating to minors and abortion.
The legislation introduced by Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, would require that both parents of a minor are informed before a pregnancy is terminated.
“As it stands, it only takes one custodial parent” to consent to an abortion, according to Miller. “This bill just informs both parents, it doesn’t require both’s consent.”
Sharing an emotional story to the committee in defense of this bill, Miller described how his then-15-year-old daughter got pregnant and contemplated. He was notified, even though it wasn’t required.
“She told me she was afraid of what I would say,” Miller recalls. “Not of what I would do, but what I would say.”
His daughter told him that he handled it better than her mother that he treated the situation more logically, according to Miller.
“The thing I keep going back to, is they didn’t have to notify me,” Miller told the committee. “And she was scared of what I’d say.”
Some were quick to point out that not all families have such healthful family communication and structure.
“Major medical organizations oppose this bill,” Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said. “They feel strongly this puts teens in danger.”
The bill does have provisions that a parent does not need to be informed if they are guilty of certain offenses, especially if they are abusive, on the Sex Offender Registry, or has a restraining order against them.
“I get some people are afraid,” Miller said. “But I don’t understand why anyone is against a parent in good standing being notified of a procedure.”
Dr. Valerie French, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Kansas City, said she has seen too many teens who suffer abuse and neglect at home.
“When a teen doesn’t want to discuss a pregnancy with parent it’s for a good reason,” French said.
This isn’t the first time the Missouri General Assembly has seen the bill. In fact, similar legislation has been introduced four times previously, where has passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
“It’s a little different from last year,” Miller said, citing the shortened bill.
Like previous years, several pro-life organizations in Missouri championed the bill as “common sense.”
An array of doctors and medical students spoke against the bill calling it “a government intrusion into lives” and stating “no other medical procedure requires notifying both parents.”
Unfortunately, the subtext of the hearing wasn’t focused on the bill being presented but rather abortion in general — particularly when the opposition was testifying.
The other bills for the committee to hear went more smoothly and took up far less time.
Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, introduced HB 1610, which would change how reports of abuse and neglect are retained by the Children’s Division within the Department of Social Services.
“When an investigator is visiting a family it helps to know the history,” a representative from Social Services said, citing of nearly 33,000 investigations, 75 percent are unsubstantiated, leading to the loss of nearly 25,000 records under current guidelines.
The bill allows the Children’s Division to retain all information in several types of investigative reports and extends the time period the information is retained.
“Eighteen years is good,” Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, said, “but it should be longer.”
Several people spoke up in favor of the bill making a note to point out that all information kept is private, and the record are not public. No one spoke in opposition.
The final bill discussed was HB 1630, which was introduced by Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester.
The bill establishes the minimum age for marriage in the state at 15-years-old. It also denies marriage licenses to those 21 and older if the other parity is younger than 17 years of age.
Those wishing to marry would still need parental consent but also a judge’s approval.
“Parental consent doesn’t always mean safety,” a representative from Missouri Kids First said. Several people spoke in favor of the bill and no opposition was voiced.
The committee took no action on any of the bills.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.