Missouri Senate Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban

Pamela Merritt

SB65 ignores rigorous medical standards and replaces them with vague, ambiguous new standards in a deliberate attempt to undermine a physician’s judgment and create confusion.

The Missouri Senate just passed a 20-week government intrusion abortion ban (SB65/HB213) that includes felony penalties for physicians who violate the new vague provisions created by the law. I followed the bill as it made it’s way from a House committee hearing to the House floor and then swiftly to the Senate where it was given first-round approval the last week of March. With Senate approval of SB65/HB213, another law restricting abortion is poised to join the crowded list of regulations and restrictions for abortion in Missouri.

SB65/HB213 makes the doctor determine viability at 20 weeks even though no fetus has ever survived before 21 weeks. It takes away the mental health exception after viability and proposes draconian penalties for doctors, hospitals and ASC/abortion facilities.  It is important to note that the term “viable” does not refer to a particular gestational age, in science or law. The potential for survival outside the womb depends on a variety of factors, including the woman’s health, chromosomal abnormalities, sex of the fetus, and sophistication of neonatal care given.

These new abortion restrictions are troubling for a lot of reasons – they place government in the middle of the patient/doctor relationship, force families to make the decision whether or not to have an abortion earlier in the pregnancy even though there may still be options on the table, and ignore the fact that many women do not find out about fetal anomalies until 20 weeks gestation. 

SB65 ignores medical science and the rigorous standards already in place and puts vague and ambiguous new standards in place. This is a deliberate attempt to undermine a physician’s judgment and create confusion – two conditions that most people try to limit in medical situations but anti-choicers in the Missouri Legislature went out of their way to create.

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I’m deeply troubled by how women are framed by this kind of legislation – as callous, indecisive, easily misled, fickle creatures undeserved of trust and incapable of making medical decisions in consultation with their physician.  Doctors are positioned as predatory practitioners who are suspect until they prove themselves innocent. Families and friends of those who seek abortion services after 20 weeks are seen as weak, uncaring, and unwilling to give support.

From a distance this looks like just another example of the anti-choice majority pandering to their base. Some will say that there are far worse bills pending or passing through state legislatures. Others will point to the rarity of abortion after 20 weeks; as if this restriction is somehow less damaging because it impacts a small percent of people.  In reality, this government intrusion ban will apply to real people, real situations and will impact real families who deserve far better from their government.

The 20-week abortion ban will apply to many families facing a diagnosis of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Tiffany Campbell, who personally faced that challenge, shared her experience in testimony before the Kansas Legislature.

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