Missouri lawmakers take up abortion laws in final weeks of legislative season

Published: Apr. 1, 2018 at 9:40 PM CDT
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It's one of the most emotionally-charged issues at the Missouri Statehouse: abortion. It's taking center stage again, as your lawmakers look to make changes to when abortions can be performed.

It's House Bill 1266, and it would ban most abortions after a fetus or baby is 20 weeks old. Representative Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson) is the bill's sponsor. She said, she's trying to prohibit most abortions after an age at which she believes babies can feel pain, "You literally have to tear that baby apart to get it out. Number one, it is causing great pain. And, number two, this baby can live, and we have proof of that."

The bill includes an exception only when a woman's life is in danger, or she is at "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function." Also, this bill wouldn't affect the vast majority of abortions. According to Planned Parenthood, about 99 percent of abortions happen before 21 weeks. But, opponents of the bill, like Rep. Sue Meredith (D-St. Louis), say abortions should remain an option for women whose fetuses develop extreme abnormalities after the 20 week mark, "Let's think about these people who don't get the perfect fetus, and let's give them the opportunity to make their decision. Because, it's the individual parents' decision. It's not the Legislature's."

As you might imagine, lawmakers got into very heated arguments, like an exchange between Rep. Lichtenegger and Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D-Ferguson). Walker says a fetus' or baby's ability to feel pain is NOT the legal standard for viability.

Lichtenegger said, "This child is viable at 20 weeks!"

Walker responded, "Is there medical research that supports or establishes that in every single woman viability begins at 20 weeks?"

Lechtenegger said, "Yes."

Walker responded, "Where is it? Where is it? I would love to see it. Thank you for your inquiry."

That bill did pass, but that was just initial approval by the House. It will need another "yes" vote, before it goes to the Senate. And, we can expect another very emotional debate.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said there are 18 states with laws banning most abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization.