Missouri Legislature: Coerced Pregnancy, Fine; Voluntary Abortion, No Way


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. 

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  • invalid-0

    Thanks for the look at this bill, Pam.

    When I initially read about it elsewhere, I was disturbed that it was being filibustered. There are women out there who are threatened with job loss, homelessness, harassment and violence when they choose to have their baby.(Very real problem. Two cases upcoming involving this Claire Headley’s case and the case of Laura Decrescenzo) Serious problem or not though, terrorizing doctors with the threat of prosecution for something they cannot control, and bringing a government agency into almost ever case…not a solution. I can see I’ll have to read the bill in its entirety. Hopefully, some sort of /actual/ compromise can happen that protect both the women who choose to give birth, and those that do not.

  • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    Pamela Merritt’s scenario wouldn’t be affected by this legislation and anyone who’s read the bill would know that. The legislation specifically defines what someone has to do to be have committed the crime of coercing a woman to abort and “being aggressive” isn’t one of them. The legislation also says the abortion provider must believe the “predominant reason” for the abortion is coercion for him to believe the woman “lacks the consent required by law.”

    My response is here.

    Merritt has clearly read the legislation. She quotes it numerous times but her analysis of it is obviously not true. Does she think the RH Reality Check readers are too lazy to read the legislation and see her obvious deception?

  • invalid-0

    I guess Missouri has become the new home of the American Taliban who no doubt won’t be happy until they put all Missouri women in burka. These mysogynists should look inward since most of the times all these efforts to control women stem from their inability to control themselves.

    • http://mikeandtoby.com/ invalid-0

      Yes, you are right. If a man (and woman too) is able to control himself under any situation then there won’t be any crime at all. Developing critical tolerance without stressing mind is an art. It can be achieved through meditation.

  • invalid-0

    …I don’t know how feasible it would be, but why not pass a law that says employers, scholarship providers, etc. cannot discriminate against pregnant women? I’m sure there would be logical exceptions where say a pregnant woman could not climb a utility pole as an employee if her doctor told her not to do so. How about if large/medium-sized employers had to TEMPORARILY reassign a pregnant woman to another job at or near where she is working her present job that her doctor says she couldn’t do. Maybe smaller employers would have to continue healthcare coverage (IF they had any) while she took a disability leave if her doctor required her to do so.
    …I can hear the protests now to any of these accommodations: “Women and doctors would take advantage of the employers,” or “Employers cannot afford that” (even though CEO pay is insanely and immorally off-the-charts), etc. Yet other advanced countries have decided that a secure society to have and raise children is a public good. Imagine THAT kind of REAL pro-life attitude were adopted in our country.
    …Of course the Cons would foam at the mouth and spit out frantic accusations of “socialism,” “communism,” “fascism,” and “totalitarianism.” I’m sure I forgot some other boggyman-ism.
    …Oh, and warnings that millions of Octomoms would be encouraged to become baby factories would certainly ensue. As if that’s what women want.
    …We just have to re-imagine what a truly pro-life culture would be: Affordable healthcare, age-appropriate comprehensive sex (LIFE) education, affordable child- and elderly care, living-wage jobs, etc.
    P.S. Do not disturb a good meditation.

  • http://www.ppmissouri.org invalid-0

    In response to Jivinj’s criticism of Merritt’s scenario, I would like to point out that the Missouri Legislature explicitly rejected an amendment that would have protected survivors of rape and incest from the impact of the bill. In addition, I suggest that Jivinj take a close look at the statutory definitions referenced in the bill that back up Merritt’s scenario — specifically those related to assault. Merritt’s not the only one concerned about the bill’s impact on rape survivors, see this link to what Colleen Coble with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence says about this bill.

    The cases referenced in Lena’s comment are compelling and underscore that there are already protections in federal employment law that protect job discrimination against pregnant women.

    As Merritt points out, this bill is about political interference, not informed consent. This bill actually takes away a woman’s ability to make health care decisions and, sadly, does nothing to help abused women — instead it proposes inappropriate and potentially harmful interventions.

    I want to let those not familiar with Missouri know that our state already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country – including protections to make sure that women are not pressured or coerced about their decision to have an abortion.

    Missouri law already requires women to both sign a consent form saying that her decision is free and voluntary and wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

    As a Missourian, I would love to see our elected officials put aside their differences and focus on reducing unintended pregnancies by providing comprehensive sex education and increasing access to contraception and other family planning services.

    • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com invalid-0

      M’Evie,
      Merritt’s scenario is obviously dishonest. There’s not a single abortion provider in Missouri who (at the cost of losing a patient) is going to think that the predominant reason that a rape victims wants to have an abortion is because of coercion if she casually mentions her boyfriend wants her to have an abortion.

      Merritt knows it and you know it and it’s dishonest to act otherwise. The legislation would only take away someone’s right to consent if they are obviously being coerced into the procedure. I can’t fathom how someone could be against this unless they were pro-abortion and had no problem with women being coerced into abortions.

      I don’t understand why it should be legal to coerce rape victims into abortion. Neither did Missouri’s legislators. That’s why they voted that amendment down.

  • progo35

    “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.”

    This is a straw man argument and goes back to the pro choice lobby using rape victims to make every argument for them. If a woman who was raped got into such a situation, she could certainly go to another doctor, if having an abortion was her decision. I just think that most people here HATE the idea of ANYTHING that would help or influence women not to have abortions, because the more abortions are performed, the better conditions are for the triumph of pro choice arguments. What is sad is that many women suffer from the issues addressed in this bill and gnawing at it like a bone destroys legitimate efforts to bring the pro life and pro choice communities together in helping women.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Who’s side are you on anyway? It is hard to tell. Obviously we are not well behaved women here. AHHH the feminists for life perhaps?

    • http://mooqla-barbie.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      I have an impression, that our men are unduly spoilt by feminism against which they protest only for the sake of appearances. Down with feminism!

  • progo35

    I really don’t think “whose side I’m on” is relevant. Clearly, there is a problem that this bill is meant to address, yet the very title of this piece is deceptive in that it makes it seem as if the bill was meant to coerce women into being pregnant. That is not the case, because it is clearly focused on preventing coerced abortion. How is this to be prevented if there is no penalty for carrying out a coerced abortion? Are we just supposed to trust doctors because their doctors, implicitly, without questioning them by setting up a penalty for carrying out an abortion that he or she knows is not what the woman truly desires? More on this later.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Please do not pretend to care about women, Jive. Your concern rings hollow. I’ve witnessed enough of your scree on pro-choice blogs across the Internet to know that you care nothing for women or even ACTUAL children.

    Seriously, folks, this is a man who sees no difference between a woman’s body and an oxygen tank (very close paraphrase – too lazy to link to it right now, but it’s in the I’m Not Sorry blog archives).

  • invalid-0

    Progo35 says: “If a woman who was raped got into such a situation, she could certainly go to another doctor, if having an abortion was her decision.”

    Why should a woman have to go around the state, or country, from doctor to doctor just to find someone who will trust her with her decision and perform a LEGAL procedure? Abortion is already the most regulated procedure, and at best this legislation is attempting to discourage doctors from helping women. How many times have you had to take a week off work, travel hundreds of miles, and then under your scenario, find yet another doctor to have a root canal or tonsilectemy? Probably never….

    Progo35 also asked how coerced abortion is to be prevented if there is no penalty. It seems clear that Progo just implicitly distrusts any medical professional that would be associated with abortion. Are you familiar with the already stringent and thorough informed consent and counseling process women go through? I’d also be interested in seeing some statistics on the number of coerced abortions that didn’t come from an anti-choice source like the Eliot Institute.

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