House gives initial approval to ban fetal tissue donation
April 21--JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- On the day that a federal judge ruled some of Missouri's abortion regulations to be unconstitutional, the Missouri House came one step closer to passing more.
On Tuesday, the House gave initial approval to a bill that would ban fetal tissue donation from abortions and would provide a stringent path for tissue disposal. The measure was the result of undercover videos from 2015 that showed fetal tissue being sold. Though legal to sell, fetal tissue can't be sold to make a profit. Whistleblowers in abortion providers will be protected under the bill.
"I want to go back and say that abortions are not health care," sponsor Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, said on the House floor.
Also, abortion providers would have to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and have yearly inspections.
The most controversial aspect of the bill was a measure that would require two-parent notification for minors who are getting an abortion. Minors now only need to notify and receive consent from one guardian.
"We are trying to start a conversation, not a fight," said Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark.
Critics of the measure were worried that a minor would have to inform a guardian of her abortion, and the same guardian could be an abuser.
"Maybe (the guardian's) the person who beats that child, maybe it's the person who abuses that child," said Rep. Sue Meredith, D-St. Louis.
Southwest Missouri representatives voiced support for the bill, and said that they are hoping the federal judge's decision will be beat back on appeal by Missouri's attorney general, who has vowed to do so.
Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, called the measures "reasonable" and not "too extreme." For him, sending tissue through a pathologist and receiving reports on where the tissue ends up was vital for his support.
"I think the potential misdirection of fetal tissue is key," White said. "We need to know where that tissue is going."
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said the most important aspect of the bill for him was banning fetal tissue donation.
"If someone is getting an abortion, that baby should not be cut and sold," Davis said.
Davis said he would vote for anti-abortion measures regardless of whether a judge would uphold the law.
"There are times I do things that are the right thing to do, not because it's what a court says," Davis said.
Both Davis and White expressed concern that none of the bills would pass through the Senate, which has been in gridlock for weeks.
A bill that would pre-empt a St. Louis ordinance that prohibits discrimination against those who have had an abortion was fast-tracked through the House, and the governor has proclaimed it as one of his priorities. However, the bill has languished in the Senate, where a filibuster by Democrats blocked progress.
Democrats argued that the St. Louis ordinance has carve-outs for businesses that are run by religious organizations.
Davis said the St. Louis ordinance was a way for the city to shut down alternative-to-abortion clinics under the "guise of nondiscrimination."
"Not all of those alternative-to-abortion facilities are religious-based," Davis said.
White said landlords with religious convictions shouldn't have to rent to an abortion provider.
"There are some topics that supersede local control," White added.
White said that this late into the session, any bill that has not received an initial vote in the House most likely wouldn't make it through the steps.
An anti-abortion resolution by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, would make it so that the definition of a person would include every stage of biological life. The bill made it through the House last year but has only passed through a Senate committee this year.