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Missouri To Consider 'Fetal Heartbeat' Abortion Restriction That's Been Struck Down Elsewhere

KCUR 89.3 file photo
KCUR 89.3
This Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas City, Missouri, does not offer abortions.

Two Missouri lawmakers are looking to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — similar to laws that have been struck down in at least three states, most recently Iowa.

The legislation, introduced by Republican Rep. Nick Schroer of St. Charles County and Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig of St. Louis County, would have the effect of prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

“I think right now we need to do whatever is necessary to protect life at all levels,” Schroer said. “And I think the determining factor of what life in many different contexts is a heartbeat.”

If a heartbeat is detected, an abortion could only be performed in the case of a medical emergency. Under Schroer’s bill, physicians would face fines and possibly have their licenses revoked if they don’t comply

Florida, Ohio and Tennessee also will consider fetal heartbeat bills this year. But that all will come in the wake of a judge striking down a similar law in Iowa on Tuesday, finding that it violated the state’s constitution. Tuesday also was the 46th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

The Missouri bills also fail to meet the standard set by Roe v. Wade ruling, according to Allison Klinghammer, communications and digital strategy manager for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

“Roe v. Wade basically says that as long as a fetus is not viable, you can't ban abortion before that,” Klinghammer said. “So, on its nose, a six-week ban, it’s completely unconstitutional.”

Koenig’s bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Pensions Committee. It’s the third year in a row he’s introduced the legislation; in prior years, it did not make it past the committee stage.

Schroer’s bill hasn’t been assigned to a committee. But he fully expects that, if passed, it will face legal challenges.

“Hopefully we don't need to do that,” he said. “Whatever we do come up with here at the committee level and amend the bill as necessary, it will be a legally sound and pass judicial muster. But if not, we're ready to proceed and take this as far we need to.”

Groups that support abortion rights, including NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, have said the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh  has emboldened conservatives to pass stricter abortion laws. Already, Missouri has one abortion provider, the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.

“We still have an anti-choice supermajority in our state legislature, so we are a bit worried that they are going to use their supermajority to pass unconstitutional bills like this six week ban,” Klinghammer said.

A 20-week abortion ban passed the House of Representatives during last yea’rs session, but did not make it to the floor of the Senate.

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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