The state House has started work on the second extraordinary session of 2017; this one called by Governor Eric Greitens (R) for the legislature to deal with issues related to abortion.
Republicans say the special session is an important chance for the state to reaffirm a commitment to protecting unborn children and making sure women receive proper care from abortion providers. Democrats say it is about attacking women’s healthcare in the face of recent court decisions.
Representative Kathy Swan (R-Cape Girardeau), who has a nursing background, is sponsoring House Bill 3, which would change the laws regarding the conditions and care at abortion providers. She said it is based in part on violations of medical procedures and protocols that have occurred at those facilities.
“Such as expired drugs, or single-use drugs that were still there – single use drugs obviously are to be utilized on a single patient and then discarded – dusty equipment, rusty equipment, that sort of thing,” said Swan. “That’s what I have been saying for the last four to five years is that those standards need to be maintained regardless of the procedure, regardless of the facility.”
Swan’s bill would require facilities that provide abortions to prove that doctors performing abortions are physicians licensed in Missouri; to be subject to rules at least equal to those for ambulatory surgical centers; and be subject to unannounced on-site inspections at least once a year. HB3 would also create the misdemeanor crime of “interference with medical assistance,” for preventing or seeking changes in medical care to a patient.
Democrats including Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) note the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law regarding regulations of abortion providers in that state, and a court has placed an injunction against a similar law in Missouri. She argues that the additional regulations Swan and others propose will also prove unconstitutional.
Representative Hannah Kelly (R-Mountain Grove) has filed House Bill 9 that she said aims to protect pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes from undue discrimination and ensure protection of women’s healthcare. She is also concerned additional abortion clinics could open in St. Louis thanks in part to a law passed by St. Louis earlier this year.
“If we don’t put a stop to it, it will be in two words an ‘abortion sanctuary,’ that we will be responsible for and the blood will be on our hands because we didn’t do anything to protect the lives that have the promise in the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said Kelly.
Democrats defend the St. Louis statute as preventing discrimination in housing and employment against women who are having or have had abortions, are pregnant, or use birth control. Springfield Democrat Crystal Quade said her constituents view that less as an issue of being for or against abortion, and more about local governments being able to govern.
“If my city council members and our mayor, or by a vote of the people, determine that something for our city is best, the fact that the legislature comes in and will look at a specific city and a specific thing that their people have decided is best for them and say, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ is worrisome,” said Quade. “I think that we have a real concern – I know I do – with just the separate branches of government and if we’re actually following what we should be, and I think that goes to the governor’s call as well – how he was so very specific to what statutes he wanted us to look into. I personally feel like he was legislating through that call.”
The House has held a committee hearing Wednesday on some of its legislation dealing with these and other abortion-related issues, but has not met as a full body. Several House members say it will seek first to take up any legislation the Senate is successful in passing and debate whether pass that.
The House is anticipated to take up the Senate’s legislation next week.