Bill seeks to restrict late-term abortions

The new legislation would severely restrict abortions after 20-weeks.

A new legislative bill, House Bill 213, which would restrict second-term abortions, was introduced to committee in the Missouri House of Representatives last week.

Introduced by Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, the proposal would restrict abortions performed past 20 weeks of a pregnancy. The bill also encourages stronger probing of emergency abortions.

The bill sets out to define the viability of a fetus, which, according to Jones, begins around week 20 of a pregnancy.

There has been controversy over whether the 20-week mark in a pregnancy reveals the fetus’ signs of life such as the sensation of pain.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors studied the fetus' ability to feel pain. They came to the conclusion that a fetus has a limited threshold for pain before the third trimester.

“In this particular bill, it's a sort of a wrongful presumption that any fetus would be viable at 20 weeks,” NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Executive Director Pamela Sumners said. “It’s based on a factual assumption that could not be more incorrect.”

In a case of medical or life-threatening necessity, the bill would hypothetically allow abortions after 20 weeks. But doctors would be required to defend their decision to the medical facility and a state board, then have the abortion approved by a second, impartial physician.

Jones wanted to keep the proposal constitutional, and the 20-week point thus became the bill’s line between legal and illegal.

A 2011 study by the Guttmacher Institute said nine other states have laws requiring a second physician to be in attendance at a late-term abortion and ten states require a second physician to approve such a procedure.

Late-term abortions, or abortions conducted after week 20 of a pregnancy, constitute less than 1 percent of all abortions in the United States.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, does not support the proposed bill and believes the issue of abortion goes beyond the political stage.

“The thing that we all need to agree on, Republicans and Democrats, is to have science-based sex education, and to support access to contraception,” Still said. “If you really and truly want to reduce abortions, you'd have to provide the other two.”

Sumners said there are less than 40 pro-abortion representatives in the House at the present time.

After a brief introduction into committee, the bill was denied and the committee will not take a vote on it.

Sumners said there is a better and less-polarized atmosphere in the Missouri Congress for abortion and similar issues, primarily due to good committee chairs. She says NARAL is planning to push forward for progress and is mobilizing their grassroots activists for support.

“I think any of these overly restrictive laws are infringing because it's the right to privacy for a woman to have an abortion,” Sumners said.

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