Abortion opponents in Missouri have cleared the biggest hurdle to restrict access to most abortions — Senate approval. A bill passed in the Senate early Thursday morning bans abortion as early as eight weeks into a pregnancy. But the bill also saw some last-minute changes, under threat of a filibuster.
Wednesday morning, the Senate commenced debate on a bill that would ban abortions after as little as six weeks into a pregnancy - the first version of the bill, which passed the house, would ban abortion once a heartbeat was detected. Nick Schroer, a Republican representative from O'Fallon is the bill’s sponsor.
“It isn’t merely a simple heartbeat bill,” Schroer said Wednesday. “This is a bill that is all-encompassing.”
The bill more than doubles the required medical malpractice insurance for abortion providers — and it bans abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, something many view as a distinct possibility after changes in the U.S. Supreme Court under the Trump Administration.
While there are exemptions in the bill for medical emergencies, there are no exemptions for rape or incest.
At a rally in the governor’s office Wednesday evening, House Republican leaders and Gov. Mike Parson struck a confident tone.
“This pro-life administration will not back down,” the governor said.
But that unified front started to show cracks hours later. The Senate was supposed to reconvene at 4:30 p.m. to resume debate. An hour passed, two hours and then three with no signs the Senate would reconvene any time soon.
It’s late in the evening and the conservative caucus is holding a news conference outside the empty Senate floor.
“We have clearly reached an impasse,” Sen. Bob Onder (R – St. Charles) said. “We went into session this morning at 10 a.m. The time for negotiations are over.”
Onder and other conservative senators said they felt betrayed by their party leadership.
They had recently ended a 27-hour-long filibuster of a tax incentive bill. Then they were promised that the next battle lawmakers would take up would be the abortion bill. Now, they were being told they would have to compromise to satisfy Democrats.
At 3 a.m., the Senate was back in session, but the bill they were debating looked a bit different.
There’s still a ban on abortions at eight weeks, but there’s no longer a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The bill passed 24 to 10.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D – St. Louis, said she was disheartened.
“We’re turning back the clock on everything we’ve fought for since the ՚70s,” Nasheed said. But, she said, she wasn’t in a position to oppose the bill Thursday morning: “It takes more than one person to filibuster. It takes an effort.”
The bill now goes back to Missouri’s House.