Missouri Rep: Spousal Consent Bill Exists But “Has Too Many Loopholes”

Prior to the 2012 election at least two states had reported seeing questionnaires from a group called National Pro-Life Alliance which asked candidates if, among other priorities, they would be supportive of bills that required spousal notification before an abortion. Despite the onslaught of new abortion restrictions flooding state legislatures once again this session, a straight spousal consent bill has yet to be seen.

But that doesn’t mean one isn’t out there.

“I’ve already seen the bill,” Missouri Democrat Representative Keith English told RH Reality Check by phone. “It’s here in the House. It’s sitting idle right now because they are waiting to see what happens with my bill.”

Rep. English’s bill is a new upgrade to the state’s informed consent law, which would require a person seeking safe abortion care to take a printout of an ultrasound home during the 24-hour waiting period. According to English, who is anti-choice, this would be a more effective form of “spousal consent” because it would allow a husband more access to convince his wife to continue a pregnancy at his request.

“There are too many loopholes,” Rep. English explained about a direct spousal consent bill. “You and I can both sit here and say that if there was some law that said that the father gets a choice that any woman could bring any man to sign in and say he was the father. What do you want to put in there? That there is going to have to be some sort of DNA test done before she can have an abortion? There are so many loopholes in that idea and so many financial constraints on both sides.”

Rep. English believes his own bill addresses those problems. “I consider this a consent type of bill. When does father have a say in continuing a pregnancy?” In Rep. English’s bill the ultrasound would be provided before the 24-hour wait begins, and printout must be supplied to each patient along with the other informed consent material. “That’s the point where the father comes in. They can look at that and say ‘This didn’t just happen because of me. This happened because there was another human being involved in the making of this decision, and maybe, maybe she will consult the other half and say, ‘You know, I’m not interested in continuing this, I would like to ask you, would you like to continue this? Because this is a decision that we did to make this thing happen.'”

The bill has been a passion of Rep. English, who said he had been working on it for years with his own representative before ever running for the House. Although he admitted that it would be difficult for rape and incest victims, he argued that it was “so miniscule” to the overall numbers that “although it is a factor, it’s something I’ll look into when we head into committee.”

Rep. English may have not chosen to put forth the model bill for spousal consent that he admits at least Missouri has received, but there is little doubt that a coordinated public relations campaign has been launched by anti-choice media to smooth the path for a bill to be introduced. For well over a month now Lifenews, assisted by Catholic News Agency and even Abby Johnson, have been increasingly discussing what they are claiming as the forgotten victims of abortion—the “fathers” robbed of their choice. They’ve even gone as far as to claim that true reproductive justice can only exist if husbands have the ability to force their wives to continue pregnancies the wives don’t want to carry to term.

At this point, due to Rep. English’s bill a true spousal consent bill is present, but idle. It may even be a sign that even Missouri’s own anti-choice politicians aren’t so extreme that they are willing to put their names to a bill that basically assigns wives as property and dependents to their husbands. But how long will that remain so in Missouri, and will that hold true in other states that no doubt have a model consent bill also waiting for someone brave enough to publicly sponsor it?


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  • disqus_IhGOtHkotI

    I don’t even know where to start with my rage on this one.

  • BigHurt360

    This is so horrible! I can’t believe how some men think they still can treat women as their property. Thankfully these old bastards are a dying breed.

    • lst

      Unfortunately there are new ones replacing them with the same crazy beliefs!

      • Lynn Allen

        Especially in Utah. I lived there for over 30 years, and believe me the crazy there lives everywhere and it breeds prodigiously.

  • Carole


  • Lynn Allen

    Let’s call for legislation to demand spousal approval and confirmation of the need for Viagra before dispensing the drug. Doctors providing Viagra and like drugs will be imprisoned if they don’t follow the law.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547265099 Karen McHale

    So, the government doesn’t trust that a woman did not have this discussion with the father of fetus and they need to “make sure” she does? How is this any of the government’s business? That is between the couple. If she chooses not to, that is her choice. This is a MASSIVE invasion of privacy and a violation of her Constitutional rights. Again, this is another “poor, silly little things” male attitude.

    • JessicaWyant

      Absolutely! Ideally if a woman is in a relationship she’ll feel comfortable enough to go to her partner and discuss it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in a perfect world and there could be any number of reasons a woman doesn’t want to discuss abortion or even the fact that she’s pregnant with the man who contributed 1/2 of the DNA to the tadpole now growing in her uterus. Unless the conservatives are going to find a way to first legislate us all into that happy place where we’re all in perfect relationships and there’s never a choice that leaves someone unhappy, they have no business telling us who we should discuss things with and why.

    • http://www.facebook.com/al.murphy.902 Eden Murphy

      It also violates HIPPA. It will never stand.

  • tabaqui

    This is revolting. Stop treating women like five year olds. Stop making women lose work days and money because of waiting periods. If a woman chooses to have an abortion, that’s it, period. No waiting period, no ‘spousal consent’, no damn invasive vaginal ultrasounds or emotional blackmail garbage or ‘counseling’ by some uninformed anti-choice know-nothing.

  • JessicaWyant

    My husband and I have had a few discussions about abortion rights. While we both believe in a woman’s right to decide whether or not she continues a pregnancy, he did once bring up that in some ways the “her body, her choice” way of thinking *can* be unfair if the father does want the child. To a certain extent I agree with him, but after some more discussion we ultimately decided that this whole scenario falls into the category of “it’s not really fair to either side, and life isn’t fair either”, and that a man’s desire for a potential child doesn’t really outweigh the bodily rights of the woman who would have to carry and give birth to it.

    Though really, if you’re in a relationship and find yourself pregnant and unwilling to discuss that you want an abortion with your partner than you probably have some pretty serious relationship issues to begin with, and having a child probably won’t fix them. If you find yourself pregnant and you’re not in a relationship I don’t really see that you have a lot of emotional or moral “obligation” to discuss this with the guy who helped get you into this situation.

    • Ethan Ethan

      I hear what you are saying. As a male-presenting person, if my partner decides to terminate a pregnancy I had a role in creating, I may have some feelings of disappointment or loss. However, that will never outweigh the choice she has in her own body. The climate of anti-choice that we live in does not allow us the flexibility for dissent from a pro-choice position. I trust women completely to make any and all choices about their bodies, independent of my (or any man’s) feelings.

  • Chakolate

    Whenever I hear of this ‘spousal consent’ business, I wonder just how
    much power they want to vest in the spouse/father. If they want him to
    be able to veto an abortion, are they also willing to let him force
    one? If the choice is up to him, surely there are plenty of potential
    fathers who wouldn’t want the responsibility or the financial burden.
    Should they be able to say she must have an abortion, even if she wants
    the baby?

    It doesn’t really matter in the long run – the only one
    who should be able to say what happens to her body is the woman
    herself. That’s got to be our line of attack, don’t you think?

  • Sidra Zaidi

    This is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court explicitly struck down spousal consent laws in Planned Parenthood v. Casey exactly because of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. The fact that Rep. English says the numbers of sexual and gender-based violence survivors are “minuscule” only echoes the statements Todd Akin, another Missourian, made about “legitimate rape” last year: These sentiments greatly diminish women’s agency, try to define a problem by saying a male perspective is the only perspective, and enforce patriarchal control over women’s rights to decision-making. But in any case, any spousal consent bill is unconstitutional. To think that Rep. English has been working on it for years is mind-boggling to me: Doesn’t he know that any type of consent law, excluding for minors with a judicial bypass, will meet the chopping block?

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  • gabesgrandma1939

    I thought that these were the people calling for smaller government and that government should not come between a patient and their doctor.

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