Missouri lawmakers sent legislation banning abortion after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson, the culmination of an emotional and contentious week that ended with many of the GOP governor’s priorities accomplished.
The House voted 110-44 to send state Rep. Nick Schroer’s abortion bill to the governor on Friday, May 17. It would ban abortion after eight weeks if a heartbeat or brain activity is detected. And the measure would bar abortion completely, except in medical emergencies, if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Doctors who violate the bill’s provisions could face felony charges and jail time.
If that eight-week ban is struck down, there is language in the bill that would increase the amount of time a woman could get an abortion. The first tier is 14 weeks. If that is overturned by a court, the state would have an 18-week ban. And if that doesn’t hold up, Missouri would bar abortions after 20 weeks.
“So, in sum, this bill is undoubtedly the most comprehensive, the most legally sound legislation not only in this state, but in this nation,” said Schroer, R-O’Fallon.
Proponents see Schroer’s bill as a culmination of decades of advocacy against abortion rights. State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, told her colleagues how she became pregnant at 15 — and had to subsequently deal with homelessness and poverty.
“And I do care for those who’ve gone through poverty after they are born? I’ve lived it,” Rehder said. “Pregnant and homeless at 15? I’ve lived it. With a family that I couldn’t turn to? I’ve lived it. And this bill is the right thing to do.”
But Democrats contend the bill is unconstitutional. They also believe the measure will saddle the state with years of protracted litigation. And state Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson, sharply questioned why Republicans weren’t more focused on reducing mortality rates among black women giving birth.
“If we believed in life, I would not be afraid to have a child right now,” Walker said. “Because the likelihood of me dying in childbirth is four times higher.”
Most Democrats were especially critical of the lack of exceptions for rape and incest. That included House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat who was a victim of sexual abuse.
“I hope every time the rest of you see me in this hallway that you think of the story I told you from my trauma, from my abuse,” Quade said. “That abuse does not define me, but it is me. I think about it every day. I relive it in my most intimate moments with my very own husband. When you each see me in this hallway, remember what you’re doing to little girls who were like me.”
Parson, who said he would sign the bill, was asked multiple times during his press availability about the lack of rape or incest exceptions.
“I think that all life has value to us,” he said. “I’ve been pretty clear about that my entire career. And I’m going to stand up for people that don’t have a voice. And everybody should have a right to life, and I believe that.”
Before the House took a vote, demonstrations broke out in the chamber’s gallery. The crowd eventually protested in front of Parson’s office, with some leaving notes on his door demanding that he veto the legislation.
Asked what the Democratic caucus can do to fight or roll back abortion restrictions in Missouri, Quade replied: “We can win elections.”