Abortion consent bill passes House

The bill would require doctors to set certain guidelines.

A bill that could change the consent requirements for obtaining an abortion passed through the Missouri House last week.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would prohibit women from getting an abortion unless voluntary, informed and un-coerced consent of the woman is obtained at least 24 hours prior to the abortion.

The bill also would require doctors performing an abortion to follow a set of guidelines before performing the abortion, including providing the woman with printed or video materials that describe the characteristics of the unborn child.

If signed into law, the bill would be not Missouri’s first consent statute related to abortion. The state has had an informed consent statute since 2003, and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the Women’s Right to Know Act was constitutional in 2006.

Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, sponsored the bill, which passed the House 108-33.

“The informed consent statute needed to be tightened up,” Onder said.

This bill is designed to protect women from coercion, Onder said. The bill would require doctors performing abortions to inform patients it is illegal to coerce a pregnant woman into having an abortion and the woman is free to withhold or withdraw her consent at any time, he said.

Methods of coercion prohibited in the measure include partners threatening divorce, abusing or stalking the pregnant woman and threatening to terminate her employment if the woman does not consent to an abortion, according to the bill. Coercion has to be proven for the new consent statute to apply, Onder said.

“Coercion has to be backed by evidence,” he said. “Just talking to and giving reasons in favor of abortion are not coercion.”

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, who has co-sponsored a bill that supports family planning, said he does not support the measure. He said he would not support a bill that would cause a bigger rift between the opposing sides in the issue.

“Abortion should be safe, legal and rare and this bill does not support this,” Harris said.

Both Harris and Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, were absent for the vote in the House.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing Monday in the Senate Committee for Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence.

“There is a chance the Senate will change the bill,” Onder said.

Ted Farnen, chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said Graham is opposed to the bill as it is written now.

“It seems like another way to undo Roe v. Wade,” Farnen said.

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