02/27/19 -- HB 126 -- Restricts abortion in various ways
HB 126, introduced by Representative Nick Schroer (Republican - District 107) is a major expansion of abortion restrictions in Missouri. It has been touted as "the strongest pro-life legislation in the country", and that statement is quite possibly true. A very strong bill in itself, after the perfection process a total of 9 amendments were added - many of which were originally entire standalone bills themselves. The result was essentially an omnibus abortion bill, which does a whole lot of things.
Some various aspect of the bill as perfected, with my comments:
- Bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. This was the core of the original bill. I don't think the idea of using a heartbeat as an indicator of life is particularly scientific (we stopped using that as a metric a while ago, and have since dealt with measurable brain activity). That said, it is something that can be detected and measured, so it isn't an unreasonable place to draw the line, even if such a line might be arbitrary in itself. I am pleased that this bill does not require onerous or invasive testing requirements the way similar laws do in other states. Instead, this bill allows a doctor to use their judgement to determine the testing method used.
- Bans abortions when the doctor has knowledge that the reason for the abortion is due to a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, or due to race or gender. I wrote about this amendment previously.
- Requires that when an abortion facility or family planing facility refers a patient to an out of state abortion provider, they must provide the patient with the same printed materials that abortion clinics in Missouri must distribute. You can read the text of this amendment here. This seemed reasonable, though there was a bit of a concern with the unknown cost of printing these additional materials. I doubt that cost would be substantial.
- Requires abortion providers to carry additional medical malpractice insurance and "tail insurance" that would provide retroactive coverage even after they close their operation. Full amendment text here. I'm generally very leery of imposing insurance requirements on people, but given that abortions have a fairly high risk of complications, I don't have an issue with requiring insurance in order to protect the patients from possible issues that might arise as a result.
- Bans abortion after 20 weeks, based on the notion that at that point generally infants can feel pain. This seems reasonable to me. It's a bit redundant given that fetal heartbeats can often be detected much earlier in pregnancy, however it is my assumption that this provision was added as a failsafe in case the primary bill language was thrown out by a court for some reason. Read this amendment here.
- Requires parental or custodial notification, when possible, and consent of at least one guardian prior to performing an abortion. Amendment text here. This seems very reasonable, though some objections were raised during debate about the bill's lack of a requirement that anyone actually verify that the person providing consent is actually a valid parent or guardian. That seems a bit problematic to me.
- Bans all abortions in Missouri in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Full text here.
This bill as perfected did not have any exception for rape or incest for any of its provisions. I'm not fond of that. While I don't really think incest deserves a particular exemption, I do think that rape victims should probably be excluded from bills like this. I'm open to having my mind changed on that, however, and ultimately it wasn't a sufficient objection for me to vote against the bill.
Ultimately, after a lengthy debate that was surprisingly civil, this bill did pass. The vote was mostly along party lines, but not entirely.