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Senate Democrats filibuster anti-abortion bill before it’s even brought to the floor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Senate Democrats pulled a procedural maneuver Wednesday to “buy time” for potential negotiations on a sweeping anti-abortion bill — before the legislation was even brought to the floor.

After the Senate gaveled in and approved the journal Wednesday morning, Democratic Sens. Lauren Arthur and Jill Schupp kicked off a nearly four-hour filibuster during the order of business of resolutions.

The Senate was expected to bring up HB 126 which would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected as long as Roe v. Wade — the ruling that declared a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes medical decisions such as abortion — is not overturned. Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the landmark decision, however, Missouri would outright ban abortions except in cases of a medical emergency.

Under the bill, anyone who knowingly performs or induces an abortion would be guilty of a Class B felony.

Exemptions for rape, trafficking, or incest victims are not included in the bill, leading opponents to call it “extreme” and “regressive.”

“This is an unconscionable use of our power as a legislature that will have negative repercussions” for young girls, Schupp said.

Arthur pointed to recent news reports of an 11-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped and impregnated.

“There will be real people, real children, who through no fault of their own will be made a victim and made to carry a baby to term and raise a child,” she said.

Democrats said the filibuster came before the bill could be brought up in order to have more “control” over the floor. It was the only “safe way” for Democrats to “buy time” and “facilitate negotiations,” Sen. Scott Sifton, who held court for a considerable time during the filibuster, told The Missouri Times.

Passing a bill restricting access to abortion in Missouri — home to only one abortion clinic in the entire state — is a priority for Republicans in the legislature. Earlier in the session, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz anticipated sending legislation to the governor. And with just two days to go before the end of the session, it’s down to the wire.

“Choice means an option. This is not a conversation or engagement around telling someone what they can or cannot do,” said Sen. Brian Williams. “This is a conversation around giving someone the option to do what they feel is best for their body and their life.”

Sen. Karla May made the argument against the bill with her faith serving as the catalyst.

“One thing God never did in the Bible was eliminate your choice. He said there was good and evil. He never took away your choice,” she said.

And Sen. Jamilah Nasheed accused Republicans of “pandering” for votes instead of truly caring about eliminating abortion since it has become a “hot-button issue.”

“Now they’ve got this goofball in the White House, and now they’re pandering to him,” Nasheed contended.

Shortly after the filibuster, the Senate took a lengthy recess with Republicans caucusing behind closed doors until well into the evening. Those opposed to the bill have asked for exemptions for rape or incest victims to be added, but Sen. Bob Onder — who sponsored comparable legislation in the upper chamber — has called for the bill to remain unchanged.

Onder’s version was brought up earlier this month, but it ultimately stalled after a filibuster.

Those on both sides of the aisle said to expect more conversation on the bill once it’s brought to the floor Wednesday night. The option for leadership to force a PQ — in other words, to move the previous question — has also been floated.

The abortion debate in Missouri comes as Alabama’s governor signed into law the most rigid anti-abortion legislation in the nation earlier Wednesday. That bill would also make abortion a crime — at any time — with no exemptions built in or rape or incest victims.