Jefferson City

A billboard message on Interstate 44 reading “Choose Life, No Matter What” was taken a step further this week in the Missouri House of Representatives.

In a bold move, the Republican majority passed a bill that would make it a felony to perform any abortions after the time a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks after conception.

All four state lawmakers representing Franklin County voted in favor of the bill that was originally sponsored by State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon.

The passage of the bill, referred to as the “Heartbeat” bill, gained national attention since the new language would challenge federal abortion laws and, if passed and signed by Gov. Mike Parson, will almost certainly be challenged in state and federal court.  

In a 117 to 39 full House vote, local Republican State Reps. John Simmons, Krakow; Aaron Griesheimer, Washington; Dottie Bailey, Eureka; and Nate Tate, St. Clair, all supported the bill’s passage.

To reach full House passage, the bill was first considered by two House committees, one of which was the Children and Families Committee, of which Bailey is a member. The vote for passage out of that committee was 9 to 4.

The bill was passed to the Missouri Senate where it will face another round of committees and amendments before it may reach the governor’s desk for signature or rejection.  

Language

According to the heavily amended language, the bill creates the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act” and specifies that anyone who knowingly performs or induces an abortion of an unborn child in violation of these provisions, except in the case of a medical emergency, is guilty of a Class B felony and is subject to suspension of his or her professional license.

The bill requires, except in cases of medical emergency, that the physician must first determine if there is a detectable heartbeat or brain function of the unborn child prior to performing or inducing an abortion. 

If a fetal heartbeat is not detected, an abortion may be performed or induced, in accordance with applicable law, so long as the abortion is performed or induced within 96 hours of the fetal heartbeat detection test.

Any physician who fails to perform a fetal heartbeat detection test prior to the performance or inducement of an abortion shall be subject to having his or her medical license rejected, revoked, or suspended for six months and shall pay a $1,000 fine. 

Any physician who performs or induces an abortion following the detection of a fetal heartbeat shall have his or her license revoked and any future license application denied. 

Federal Law

The bill also creates the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act.” 

The bill specifies it is the intent of the state of Missouri that abortion shall not be permitted in the state under any circumstances even if there is any change in federal law or court decisions that allow abortion.

If a total ban is not possible, abortions shall be limited to women who are less than eight weeks gestational age, with a required fetal heartbeat or brain function test. Except in cases of medical emergency, a physician shall not perform or induce an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.