As onlookers in the gallery shed tears, some in elation, some in disgust, the Missouri House voted 110 to 44 to ban abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape and incest.
The measure is on its way to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk for final approval.
The bill would criminalize any abortion beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergencies. Doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks face five to 15 years in prison. There is no punishment for the mother.
Emotions continued to run high as the measure headed for passage. Opponents chanted “when you lie, people die“ before being escorted out of the gallery.
House Republicans argued the bill protected the unborn and gave a “voice for the voiceless.”
“We are a pro-life state and we are here to prove it,” state Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, said.
One anti-abortion Republican voted against the bill because there were no exceptions for rape or incest.
“(My constituents) think this is going too far,” Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, said.
Without those exceptions, the bill was not “pro-quality of life,” opponents countered.
“Life is more than breath,” state Rep. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, said.
Opponents argued the bill wasn’t banning abortions, but banning access to a safe, legal abortion.
The bill passed the Missouri Senate early Thursday, after more than 24 hours of negotiations between Senate Democrats and the Republican super majority.
A day before the Missouri Senate vote, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that bars virtually all abortions at any stage of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia and Mississippi, have banned abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be heard.
The intent is that one or more of these laws will draw a challenge to return the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Activists hope a new conservative majority will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision affirming a woman’s right to an abortion without undue government interference.
The goal of the legislation was not to overturn Roe v. Wade, bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer said.
“However, if and when that fight comes, we will be fully ready,” Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said.
The measure also establishes criminal penalties for abortions sought solely because of a prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome in an unborn child.
As a fail-safe, if the eight-week ban is thrown out by the courts, the bill also bars abortion after 20 weeks. Under this provision, if there is a medical emergency during the third trimester, physicians must attempt to save the child.
The bill also doubles the amount of medical malpractice insurance an abortion provider is required to have. Physicians who perform medication abortions must have something called “tail insurance,” which continues to cover them after they’ve retired or changed employers.
It also expands a tax credit for pregnancy resource centers, family planning entities that discourage abortions, by allowing them to a higher percent of state funds.
Lastly, if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, Missouri law would automatically ban all abortions.
The bill has been a big priority for the Missouri Legislature and Parson has indicated he would sign the bill.