Special Session II – Week 2

On Tuesday, the House debated, amended, and passed Senate Bill 5 back the Senate with stronger protections for women’s safety. We sent it to the Senate with two main features. First, it re-instates the Department of Health and Senior Services‘ basic authority to regulate abortion clinics – just as it regulates other medical treatment facilities.

Democrats seemed argue that any DHSS regulations would be overly burdensome and unnecessary. It’s easier to make arguments in a fact vacuum. For the most part, instead of talking about specifics, Democrats offered talking points. Here are some specific regulations that SB 5 authorizes:

  1. Requiring abortion facilities to be designed so that a patient can be carried on a stretcher to the ground floor for transfer to an ambulance in case of an emergency;
  2. Requiring abortion facilities to maintain infection control protocols;
  3. Requiring abortion facilities to run criminal background checks on all employees who have contact with patients;
  4. Requiring abortion facilities to have a complication plan for any medical abortion for which the known complication rate is greater than one percent;
  5. Requiring abortion facilities to have a protocol in place for transfer of a patient in an emergency to a hospital within a reasonable distance from the abortion facility;
  6. Requiring the doctor performing the abortion to actually have an in-person consult with their patient and to inform them of the medical facts on risks and contraindications.

I believe reasonable people should support all of these protections.

The second half of the bill protects pro-life advocates in St. Louis and elsewhere to be from local government regulations that would require them to hire or rent space to Planned Parenthood or vehemently pro-abortion job applicants. The fact that the legislature even has to spend time on this is ridiculous. Opponents of the special session legislation claimed the new pro-abortion ordinance in St. Louis was necessary to protect pro-choice Missourians from discrimination. But when asked in hearings to name examples, they could not come up with a single real-world example from before the ordinance passed. They did come up with an example after the ordinance passed   – of a woman who lost her job after she was denied medical leave after a miscarriage. However, state law already protects her.

Most people who call themselves pro-choice rightly bear that label. A fairly common position is that people say that, personally they would never choose an abortion and they would prefer pregnant women to choose life, but they just do not believe government should have anything to do with it.

Obviously, our Supreme Court has had a lot to say about this, starting with Roe v. Wade and continuing through the Hellederstadt case handed down last year. A general statement summarizing Supreme Court law on abortions is that states have always had and continue to have the authority to enact reasonable health and safety requirements on abortion providers, but those requirements cannot create an undue burden or place substantial obstacles in the way of a woman seeking an abortion. (The arguments in abortion law revolve around what is “undue” and what is a “substantial obstacle.”)

There are others who go further. For example, a committee meeting during this special session featured people in the audience with signs that said, “Abortion is a blessing.” People with that mindset cannot fairly be called pro-choice. Instead, pro-abortion is more accurate. It seems that the St Louis ordinance  blows past the politely pro-choice crowd into the more zealous pro-abortion zone. The House considered and passed the Senate‘s version of the bill‘s second part.

Comparing Infant Mortality and Abortion in St. Louis

Sometimes legislative debate can make you think you have entered a parallel universe. Both sides of an issue talk right past each other. They look at the same set of basic facts – and draw opposite conclusions. And then there are some hot-button issues where the underlying facts or the bill itself  seem irrelevant.

Abortion is one of those issues.

On Tuesday, Democrats decided one of their talking points would be a lack of focus on the infant mortality rate in St. Louis, which is unacceptably high. Several speakers in a row highlighted it. They said it was a tragedy to have such high rates in our country.

According to a calculator at the DHSS website, there were 4,573 live births in St. Louis area codes in 2014. That same year had an infant mortality rate of 11.4 per thousand – or 52 deaths. Between 2011 and 2014, 58 infants died in St. Louis zip codes per year. This is an alarming high rate. But compare that to Planned Parenthood in St. Louis – where more than 450 abortions are performed every month.

I believe the effort in St. Louis to silence and intimidate pro-life advocates is shameful, and it is my hope that the Senate will Truly Agree and Finally Pass Senate Bill 5 sometime next week.