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

Pamela Merritt

A Missouri bill would make physicians 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."

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.

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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
, 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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