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Missouri Republicans Back ‘Personhood’ Measure, Compare Abortion to Slavery

Michelle D. Anderson

The proposed clauses would add fetuses to the list of Missouri residents who have a "natural right to life" and abolish a pregnant person's right to abortion care.

A proposed amendment aimed at ending legal abortion in Missouri through a so-called personhood law dominated a Tuesday hearing held by the state’s House Committee on Children and Family.

The amendment, called House Joint Resolution (HJR) 98 and sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove), would overturn the state’s abortion laws if placed on the state ballot and supported by voters in November. Moon’s proposal requires approval by the state senate and the house, but not Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has vetoed anti-choice measures passed by Missouri Republicans.

The state constitution would allow the measure to appear on a ballot if the GOP-dominated legislature accepts the amendment.

The proposed clauses would add fetuses to the list of Missouri residents who have a “natural right to life” and abolish a pregnant person’s right to abortion care.

The Republican amendment declares that people would retain the right through their elected state officials to “amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or if necessary to save the life of the mother.”

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HJR 98 had 21 co-sponsors as of Tuesday, all of whom are Republicans.

Moon, who claimed the amendment would protect the health of pregnant people, played a video clip of a fetus during the hearing in an attempt to make his case for the anti-choice measure.

One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Rick Brattin (R- Harrisonville), compared abortion care to the enslavement of Black people.

Moon gained national attention in December when he proposed the similar All Lives Matter Act, or HB 1794, in an attempt to end legal abortion in Missouri. The proposed anti-choice law sought to define a fertilized egg as “a person” and life as beginning at conception.

That proposal has drawn criticism from Black Lives Matter activists and supporters who noted that the All Lives Matter Act co-opted the movement’s language, which was created to combat the racism and dehumanization of Black people in light of police brutality cases across the country.

Laura Swinford, executive director of Progressive Missouri, tweeted that declaring an embryo a full legal person could ban common forms of birth control like the pill, intrauterine devices, and emergency contraception.

All of those methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

“As a former embryo myself, I would like protection for all embryos,” Moon said, according to the Columbia Missourian.

Officials from NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri have criticized the proposed amendment and charged that the “personhood” measure is unconstitutional.

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri noted that voters in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Colorado have all defeated so-called personhood measures. Colorado voters have rejected “personhood” in three elections, prompting some anti-choice activists to call for a localized approach to ending abortion rights.

The house committee on Tuesday held a brief hearing on HB 1953, but only two testimonies were allowed for the proposal.

The proposal, which seeks to restrict fetal tissue donations, is also among a flurry of anti-choice measures proposed by the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature.

There’s no scheduled follow-up hearings on the anti-choice House Joint Resolution, reports the Columbia Missourian.

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