Abortion bill moves to the Senate

Another abortion bill is on the fast track in the Missouri General Assembly.

Rep. Bryan Pratt’s House Bill 434, which changes Missouri’s consent requirements for obtaining an abortion and also makes coercing an abortion a crime, was sent to the Senate this week after a 115-41 vote in the House last Thursday.

Pratt (R-Blue Springs) introduced the legislation because he considered Missouri’s existing informed consent law inadequate.

“The current informed consent law in my mind is a little bit unclear,” Pratt said during a media interview after the initial vote. “The bill has two things, an informed consent component and a coercion component. The informed consent component basically says that 24 hours before an abortion is performed, a woman has a right to know the name of the doctor, the doctor’s phone number, the type of procedure it is, the nearest hospital the doctor has privileges at, and the alternatives to it.

“We think this bill gives a woman an opportunity to evaluate her options before making the final decision.”

Text of the bill requires the physicians’ name be provided prior to the procedure, along with information on the abortion method, alternatives to the abortion, and the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus.

The doctor must also provide the woman with “printed or video materials from the Department of Health and Senior Services” describing anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus’s brain and heart functions, along with the possibility of causing the fetus pain.

The bill also requires the woman be provided with an opportunity to view an ultrasound and hear a heartbeat at least 24 hours in advance. The other half of the bill contains information about coercion, which would become a class A felony carrying up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Debate over the bill was heated at times, and political reporter Jason Rosenbaum reported that Pratt’s closing address lasted longer than a minute, which was against the rules.

“Pratt could be heard asking Democrats whether the point of order was really worth their time,” Rosenbaum reported. “Democrats – namely Rep. Beth Low (D-Kansas City) – shot back whether Pratt’s bill was important. Pratt could also be heard telling the group of Democrats to ‘quit whining.’ That lead House Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) to get into a heated argument with Pratt.”

LeVota was cautious this week when speaking about the bill, and had little to say when the subject was brought up.

“It did pass overwhelmingly in the House,” LeVota said. “It had some bipartisan support. It is an attempt to lower the number of abortions in the state. Democrats are split, some people thought it was too far out, some people thought it was right on the money.”

The bill already received a first reading in the Senate this week.