The first Missouri House of Representatives hearing of the year on abortion procedures in the state was held Jan. 27. Members discussed several bills proposed by Republican lawmakers.
Following Missouri’s enactment of a 72-hour waiting period for women to receive an abortion late last year, as well as talk of requiring women to seek permission from men to receive an abortion, legislators are now looking to require the consent of both parents in the case of a minor looking to terminate a pregnancy.
The bill, HB 99, was proposed by Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, and includes an exception for emergencies. Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, opposes the legislation.
“We have one abortion facility left in Missouri and abortion is only 3 percent of what they do,” Newman said. “Is the intent to shame and to embarrass young women and men, is it to provide them the resources they need and legally have, or is it to say, ‘look, we’re doing this this way even though it could be putting your life at risk?’”
Missouri is one of the states with the most abortion restrictions, Newman said.
As of 2014, abortion in Missouri is covered by both private insurance and Affordable Care Act policies only in cases of life endangerment, and public funding is available only under circumstances of life endangerment, rape or incest.
Missouri law currently requires one parent to consent in order for a minor to get an abortion. To bypass that consent, the minor would have to get a court order.
Women are also under obligation to receive “state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.
That aforementioned counseling necessitates two separate trips to the facility, as it must be given both in person and before the waiting period begins.
There are some, however, who would like to see the practice of abortion entirely eliminated from American medicinal procedures.
“From a pro-life perspective, we acknowledge that abortion is very harmful to women and that it can cause trauma,” said Missy Stone, Students for Life of America Southern Regional Coordinator. “There are organizations out there that specialize in after-abortion grief because women have a higher chance of being suicidal, losing relationships and turning to drugs and alcohol after this event. And so, for a minor, it feels like there is an even greater risk.”
When it comes to minors, parents should be informed of all decisions involving the health of their children, Stone said.
“It seems crazy that schools require students to get parental consent to take Tylenol but it’s not necessarily required to allow (both) parents to know about their student getting an abortion, something that is potentially harmful and dangerous to their mental and physical health,” she said.
In response to the latest Missouri legislative proposition, Stone said she feels that an open dialogue between both parents will be beneficial for young women. Being required to tell both parents will give girls a chance to talk about their situation and feelings, she said.
‘“I don’t feel that (consulting both parents) is a stressor,” Stone said. “These young girls are so open to peer pressure. Maybe their boyfriends are pushing them to get this done, maybe it’s someone else, but with counseling and requiring that parents know girls are given the opportunity to talk it out and say ‘Hey, let’s talk about this, let’s figure it out,’ which I don’t think is crazy — I think it’s great.’”
Contrary to Stone’s position, Newman said she feels that requiring an additional layer of consent poses a greater risk to minors than the procedure itself. Newman explained that not all children are born into families where communication is open and accepting.
“Well, there are a lot of things that cause trauma and I think those comments are fabulous when you’re coming from a perfect, two-parent, cohabiting family with excellent communication,” Newman said. “Those situations are, in most instances, not typical. We cannot and we should not legislate our values and what you espouse as your own religion and your own faith and what you would do in that situation and what you hope your children would do — you cannot blanket that over every minor.”
Newman went further to say that children have a sense of where they can find support, aid and counseling.
“There are things you would tell your mother, there are things you would tell your father, there are things you would tell both; you just know where your support lies,” Newman said.
Newman said until proper sexual education, which she said is in jeopardy in rural Missouri, is more widespread, alternatives have to be created.
“We would love to see unintended pregnancies reduced and yet all of those common sense measures that probably 99 percent of women agree with, like access to birth control and sex education, are overlooked,” Newman said. “In Missouri, public school districts decide what kind of sex education they present, and it does not have to be accurate.”
Although the bill is just now being discussed, Newman said the bottom line of the issue requires people to take a step back and consider how women themselves will be affected by reproductive legislation.
“This affects you, this affects your siblings, this affects young people that you will know,” she said. “‘Legislation, if it becomes statute, has really, really real consequences for real women. It should not be religion-based, it should not be partisan-based, and it’s gone far enough that we need to stop and say, ‘Hey, how does this affect women?’”