The state House has proposed barring abortions in Missouri of any fetus a doctor determines is capable of feeling pain.
House Bill 1266 would prevent such abortions unless they are found to be necessary to avert the mother’s death or if there is a serious risk to the mother of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. In such cases a doctor would be required to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the fetus the greatest chance of survival without posing such risks to the mother.
The bill requires reporting of such abortions to the Department of Health and Senior Services, and would make a doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the bill’s provisions subject to discipline.
Sponsor Donna Lichtenegger (R-Cape Girardeau) calls it the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” She and other backers of the bill argue there is scientific evidence that a fetus can feel pain at 22 weeks.
“The most significant reason that [an abortion after that stage is painful for a fetus] is because at 5-months this child literally needs to be torn apart, limb for limb, in order to be aborted. It is much safer for the mother and for the fetus to be able to have a C-section and it’s much faster than the abortion,” said Lichtenegger, “so there are other ways that this baby can be delivered without tearing it from limb to limb.”
Representative Cora Faith Walker (D-Ferguson) questioned proponents’ arguments about when a fetus can feel pain, and argued that there is an “abundance” of scientific data to the contrary.
“The actual pathways – the neurological pathways – that are necessary to feel pain in fetuses is typically not developed until well after the 20-week development state,” said Faith Walker.
St. Louis Democrat Sue Meredith said when the bill was heard by a committee, lawmakers heard from parents who had abortions because their children were not forming properly in the womb and faced short and/or painful lives if brought to term.
“These people weren’t getting these abortions because they were getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy … we are telling people who have these abnormally developing fetuses that you have to carry this fetus full-term. You have to put that baby through that agony of whatever it is – not being able to breath, not being able to think properly – not being able to do the things that one needs to do to live,” said Meredith.
Harrisonville Republican Rick Brattin said he “begrudgingly” supports HB 1266. He is frustrated that the legislature is debating at what times during a pregnancy it can be terminated rather than seeking to make abortion illegal altogether.
“It’s just mind boggling to me that we are having to even go with something like this and that there’s even debate on a bill like this,” said Brattin. “I just look for the time and I pray for the time that people are actually awakened by the egregious act of this horrible procedure and this life-ending act and actually ban abortion, not just pain capable.”
The House voted 117-31 to send HB 1266 to the Senate for consideration.