Bills spark much debate

Rev. B.T. RIce speaks at the Prevention First rally.

Rev. B.T. RIce speaks at the ‘Prevention First’ rally.

Parker Willis

Multiple bills came up about abortion and abstinence-only education this week, and each one of them was immediately opposed.

House Bill 1055 and Senate Bill 370 are both omnibus bills that were presented in session April 17, and both were debated heavily.

The first hang-up was the requirement of abortion providers to be ambulatory surgical centers. Out of the three abortion providers in the state only one currently meets those standards. The clinic in Kansas City only provides abortions in pill form. And the center in Columbia does do surgery abortions, but the surgery doesn’t require all of the services of an ambulatory surgical center.

“Its complication rate is lower than vasectomies and wisdom tooth extractions,” said Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis).

But with the new restrictions, Bray believes the two clinics outside St. Louis would most likely just stop offering abortions instead of meeting the requirements.

Another argument mentioned by the prevention first coalition, a coalition of approximately 20 organizations that had its lobby day April 17, was to teach children about sex.

“The main focus is to stop putting restrictions on abortions,” said Alison Gee, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis. “If we’re serious about reducing abortion, then we got to focus on the real issue which is unintended pregnancy. The best way to reduce unintended pregnancy is to make sure our youth have honest factual information so they can make responsible decisions. And give women access to birth control.”

Gee said the governor and the legislative leadership are trying to do everything they can to make it harder for women to get birth control and kids to get medically accurate, factual sex education.

“Kids are going to have sex whether you talk about it or not,” said Rep. Connie Johnson (D-St. Louis). “It would be wise to make sure that kids are educated on the consequences of it. Pregnancy is just one component of it. There are just so many STDs out there.”

Johnson said St. Louis African-American women have the highest rate of HIV in the state.

“We need to promote and educate people on the consequences of having sex while they are young,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can reduce the incident of HIV and other STDs. Of course teenage pregnancy is going to be an issue that people are concerned about. Everyone is so hell-bent and focused on abortions but that’s just a drop in the bucket.”

Neither one of the bills were voted on, and in the House one representative voted to break the bill into three separate pieces. The bills are currently sitting on the unofficial calendar and may be brought back up at a later date.