( – promoted by Clark)

I've got a case of legislative deja vu. Spring is in the air and Missouri state legislators are trying to pass another abortion restriction bill – yep, this has definitely happened before. The Missouri House passed this year's abortion restriction bill, HCS HB 46 & 434 (Davis/Pratt), and once again it is full of new and unnecessary requirements to the informed consent procedure for abortion. (Once the bill reached the Senate, pro-choice Senate Dems filibustered, and the bill has not been voted on.) The bill would also create the new crime of “coercing an abortion” which threatens felony convictions for anyone found guilty of that vaguely defined crime. As with previous abortion restriction bills, HCS HB 46 & 434 mandate that government step into the doctor/patient relationship while ignoring the standard practice of medical care already in place for abortion providers in Missouri.

Despite protests from advocates against domestic violence, sponsors and supporters of HCS HB 46 & 434 took to the floor of the Missouri House and claimed to be protecting women from being coerced into having an abortion. The legislation would create the crime of “coercing an abortion” if a woman has experienced threats of having a scholarship for higher education at a public or private institution revoked because she is pregnant; threats of employment discrimination or termination if she continues her pregnancy; stalking, assault or domestic assault. Many of the people with whom I discussed HCS HB 46 & 434 were initially supportive until they looked beneath the surface. The bill would make physicians and anyone assisting them criminals for helping women obtain an abortion “with knowledge” that the woman has been “coerced” and would prohibit the woman from consenting to an abortion as the “victim of a coerced abortion.”

Here's an example of this proposed law in action.

Consider a woman who is pregnant as the result of rape who, with her doctor, decides that an abortion is the best course of action. Imagine that rape survivor also mentions to her doctor that her boyfriend agrees with her decision, but has been aggressive with her about it. With HB46, now the doctor must turn the situation over to the government which mandates that the doctor label that rape survivor a “victim of coerced abortion” who “lacks the consent required by law.” [Text is quoted directly from the last paragraph of the bill.]

HCS HB 46 & 434 is a clever revision of last year's abortion restriction bill and opponents must navigate some complicated linguistic terrain. No one wants women to be forced to do anything against our will, but denying women our right to make decisions with our doctor if we are survivors of crime is not the definition of protection anymore than forcing a rape survivor to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape to term is the definition of empowerment. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, the reality is clear. In the world that HCS HB 46 & 434 would create, women are denied a voice and subjected to half a dozen new legal hurdles to access reproductive healthcare, doctors and healthcare providers are made criminals for following their patient's clearly expressed wishes, family members and counselors risk criminal prosecution for giving advice and the all powerful state gets an instant medical degree complete with a front row seat to private medical appointments.

What's amazing is how the same anti-choice Missouri lawmakers manage to contradict themselves this session. Anti-choice legislators passed the abortion restriction bill HCS HB 46 & 434 allegedly to protect women from the crime of coercion. Simultaneously, they are also trying to pass pharmacy denial legislation House Bills 226 and 533, that would protect pharmacies from legal action if their employees refuse to dispense emergency contraception that would prevent unwanted pregnancies. Keep in mind that refusing to fill a prescription for emergency contraception would not be considered coercion, even though it could potentially force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. It gets better: anti-choice Senators would also like to pass SB459 and SB 529, which would criminalize a pregnant woman who goes to term with a pregnancy before she is able to overcome her drug or alcohol problem.

I have to wonder if SB459 and SB 529 would open up the legislature to felony prosecution for committing the crime of “coercing and abortion” should the abortion restriction bill HCS HB 46 & 434 become law, because it threatens women with unemployment, incarceration and the potential loss of scholarships should they carry their pregnancy to term while addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Missouri has a new pro-choice Governor and many speculate that the anti-choice state legislature is setting up a test of Governor Nixon's ability to sustain a veto. Meanwhile, legislation like the 2009 Prevention First Act and several bills that would promote prevention and health in Missouri languish unaddressed. Now comes word that the same legislative body that passed HCS HB 46 & 434 to allegedly protect women and unborn children has voted to not expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover 27,000 more uninsured born children when Missouri families need it most.

This Missouri resident wishes someone would create the new crime of wasting the people's time while committing legislative stupidity.

This post was written by RH Reality Check staff writer and Missouri resident Pamela Merritt.