Missouri House moves to further restrict abortion

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led House on Tuesday advanced a bill that would ban almost all abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

And if the high court doesn’t switch course, the Missouri bill would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

“It is time to join the many states providing a commonsense but strong voice for the voiceless children that have yet to be born,” bill sponsor Republican Rep. Nick Schroer, told colleagues on the House floor. “Today, let us make known to the citizens of this great state and every state in the nation that Missouri stands for the unborn.”

House members loaded up Schroer’s bill, which originally focused only on banning most abortions after fetal heartbeats are detected, with a number of other abortion restrictions during debate on the floor Tuesday.

Lawmakers voted 110-37 to give the wide-ranging bill initial approval. It needs another House vote to move to the Senate.

The bill comes as abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the high court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court’s 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion.

Arkansas’ Republican governor last week signed into law a measure to ban abortion in that state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Like the Missouri bill, it includes exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.

Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have similar “trigger” bans on the books.

Efforts to pass bills limiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected are underway in states including Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, South Caroline and Tennessee.

Kansas City Democratic Rep. Judy Morgan said if the Missouri law is enacted “it will effectively ban abortion in our state.” She also cautioned colleagues about the bill’s estimated $7.7 billion price tag , which reflects the potential loss of federal Medicaid funding because the legislation does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Morgan said the bill could “hurt a lot of people,” but Schroer said other states have not been cut off from federal Medicaid funding for passing similar laws.

Other provisions in the Missouri bill include a ban on abortions based on race, sex or an indication of Down Syndrome. The legislation also would require that both parents are notified before a minor receives an abortion.

The Missouri efforts won praise from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who in a Tuesday statement said he applauds “the bipartisan efforts of the Missouri House of Representatives for choosing to take a bold stand to protect women’s health and the right to life.”