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Thursday June 27th, 2019 6:22AM

Missouri Senate joins GOP anti-abortion wave with 8-week ban

By The Associated Press
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican-led Senate has passed a wide-ranging bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, acting only hours after Alabama's governor signed a near-total abortion ban into law.

The Missouri bill needs another vote of approval in the GOP-led House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who voiced support for an earlier version Wednesday.

The legislation includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff. Women who receive abortions wouldn't be prosecuted.

Republican Senate handler Sen. Andrew Koenig described it on Thursday as "one of the strongest" abortion bills yet passed in the U.S.

Missouri joins a movement of GOP-dominated state legislatures emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative Supreme Court could overturn its landmark ruling legalizing the procedure. Its senators voted only hours after Alabama's governor signed the most stringent abortion ban in the nation on Wednesday, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

Outnumbered Missouri Senate Democrats launched into an attack on the bill before Republican supporters had a chance to bring it up for debate on the Senate floor.

"So much of this bill is just shaming women into some kind of complacency that says we are vessels of pregnancy rather than understanding that women's lives all hold different stories," St. Louis-area Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said.

Missouri is among a growing number of states where abortion opponents are working with renewed enthusiasm following President Donald Trump's appointment of more conservative high court justices. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. Similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa have been struck down in court.

Supporters say the Alabama bill is intentionally designed to conflict with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally in hopes of sparking a court case that might prompt the justices to revisit abortion rights.

Missouri's bill also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies. But unlike Alabama's, it would kick in only if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

If courts don't allow Missouri's proposed eight-week ban to take effect, it includes a ladder of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or pregnancy. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up until viability, which is usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

"This is not a piece of legislation that is designed for a challenge," Missouri's Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr said. "This is the type of legislation that is designed to withstand a challenge and to actually save lives in our state."

Republicans and Democrats worked for hours to reach a compromise on the bill, which included an expansion of tax credits for donations to pregnancy resource centers, and waters down other provisions.

The approved version of the wide-ranging bill bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential of Down Syndrome. It also requires that both parents be notified for a minor to get an abortion, but a change was made after hours of late-night negotiations to remove the requirement when a parent lacks legal or physical custody. Current law requires written consent from only one parent.

Still, some lawmakers on both sides of the debate walked away unhappy.

Democrat Schrupp said even after changes, it's "an extreme and egregious piece of legislation that puts women's health at risk."

"It is outrageous that it has no exemptions for victims of human trafficking, rape or incest," she said.

Republican Sen. Bob Onder said negotiators went too far to compromise, leaving the bill "a shadow of what it once was."

"This should be entitled not the 'Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,'" Onder told colleagues on the Senate floor, "but the 'Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, sort of kind of only after the minority party and the strongest Planned Parenthood lawyers in the country were done with the bill.'"

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