Combined HB 46 & 434, the so-called “anti-coercion” bill which was passed by the Missouri House this week and sent to the Senate, purports to protect pregnant women seeking abortions from just about everything — except the bullies who try to coerce them to give birth. The legislation, which you should read in its entirety just for fun — it’s that outrageous — contains almost every dodge that the anti-abortion crowd has used to date in order to subject legal abortion to the death by a thousand cuts.
Upon even superficial reading it is clear that this bill is riddled with questionable assumptions and disingenuous assertions, while the key terms in the legislation are poorly defined. Analysis by NARAL suggests that it violates the First and Fourteenth amendments as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
It seems, though, that my State Representative, Andrew Koenig (R-Dist. 88), does not find this legislation problematic. If you are interested, you can read his response (or rather his assistant’s response) to my concerns below the fold. Just to give you some context about the nature of Rep. Koenig’s concern for family and child welfare, he was one of the 84 Republicans who voted last week against extending state Medicare coverage to thousands of currently uninsured children.
Thank you for taking the time to contact Rep. Koenig’s office with your concern about the anti-coercion bill. I am glad you are interested in protecting the health and safety of Missouri women and families. That is what this bill is all about.
It appears you have received misleading information about what this bill does and doesn’t do. It protects women by giving them more information than what is currently offered. It also stops some of the arm-twisting that is happening every day. We can all agree that it should be the woman who makes the choice, not the bullies around her who have a financial interest in making her get an abortion.
You are correct when you say there were a lot of misleading speeches given during the debate, but they were all from those who are opposed to allowing women access to information and help. Your concern about banning abortions from any woman who tells her doctor she has been raped is a perfect example of false information. This bill does nothing to block rape victims from getting abortions. To the contrary, if a woman is in an abusive situation, this bill allows her access to a higher level of protection by addressing the crime of coercion. I am sure we can both agree that women should not be forced to have abortions against their wills.
It makes me happy to know that you and I also agree that the responsible way to support Missouri families is to provide them with information and education. This bill addresses your concern. Women in bad situations often don’t know where to turn. With this legislation, we are doing more than ever before to make sure women are not shut out of information that will help them make whatever decision they feel is best. Keeping women in the dark is not the solution to anyone’s problems.
When you ask me to work on legislation that promotes the health and safety of women, I take that very seriously and can think of nothing more important than this bill. You can be proud of what we are doing to help the women in our state, because our Missouri women deserve better.
Kimberly Wilson on behalf of Rep. Koenig
Representative Andrew Koenig, District 88
Unfortunately, this condescending little essay only manages to leaves me wondering why Koenig won’t even try to address just a few of the real questions this bill raises?
Where are the numbers and facts about the prevalence of coercion? Do the oh-so-concerned souls who supported this bill have any quantitative documentation at all to justify the need for this legislation? If they do, what is its provenance?
As for what constitutes the coercion from which Koenig believes he voted to protect women, according to the bill it occurs when one:
… performs an act intended to cause a woman to seek or obtain an abortion against her will, or performs an act conditioned upon or precipitated by a woman disregarding or refusing a demand that she seek or obtain an abortion;
Just what is an “act” in this context? If this definition is intended to be functional, shouldn’t that key term also be explicitly defined — particularly since the penalties for coercion that are proposed are seriously heavy?
And what about the information Koenig wants to mandate? Does it really leave women better informed?
As far as I can determine, the legislation enforces a script that is unbalanced and filled with scientifically questionable statements. For example:
–it exaggerates the risks of abortion and says nothing about the risks of childbirth.
— it forces doctors to assert that fetuses may experience pain at 22 weeks, although medical opinion is almost uniform in concluding that it is unlikely that a fetus experiences pain until the third trimester or even later.
Do these scare and guilt tactics really leave a vulnerable woman better able to make a decision about abortion?
I do have to conclude, though, that there is one thing that Koenig gets right — Missouri’s women do deserve better — better than Rep. Koenig that is.