How Missouri's "Heartbeat Bill" Differs From Others

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Missouri’s Senate joined ranks with other state legislative chambers and passed a “heartbeat bill,” which is on its way back to Missouri’s House where it is expected to pass. Missouri Governor Mike Parson has already signaled that he will sign the bill.


Although Republicans hold a super-majority in the Senate, the passage of the bill was not smooth sailing. The House initially passed a version of the bill in March, as Amelia Hamilton reported here at the time.  As the Senate moved to take it up yesterday, the bill faced resistance from the Democratic minority:

Opponents of the proposed new abortion law began efforts to block it in the Missouri Senate about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday — even though the bill had not been officially brought up for debate.

They ended their filibuster at about 4 p.m., when it appeared a compromise had been worked out.

However, a planned half-hour recess stretched more than five hours into the night, with no resumption of debate or any indication when the Senate might resume its discussion of the abortion bill or any other measure — even though Missouri’s Constitution requires the lawmakers to end their session at 6 p.m. Friday.

Throughout last evening, multiple reports emanated from some of the staunchest supporters of the bill that it was being significantly watered down:


Finally, shortly after 4:00 a.m., by a vote of 24-10, the Senate passed the bill.  Senator Andrew Koenig, who helped shepherd the bill through the Senate, expressed his relief on Twitter:

As Senator Koenig noted, Representative Nick Schroer sponsored the bill passed by the House back in March. Schroer explained why this bill is more than a “heartbeat bill.”:

Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, told those gathered in the governor’s office his bill began as a “heartbeat” bill but was expanded during the legislative process.

“It starts off with a roughly eight-week abortion ban, once the heartbeat or brain activity can be detected in the child,” Schroer explained. “If, for any reason, any court were to overturn that, we have a tiered severance package which would kick it to a 14-week ban.”

If that limit, “which is linked to our scientific and legislative findings,” he said, also were blocked by a court, the law moves the limit to 18 weeks, then to 20 weeks.

The bill also would “ban abortions in the state of Missouri if, for any reason, Roe v. Wade is overturned (or) the Supreme Court dictates that it is going to be up to the states to legislate in the area of abortion,” Schroer said.

The bill’s provisions include allowing criminal charges to be filed against a doctor who performs a nonemergency abortion, with a potential prison sentence ranging from five to 15 years.

The measure includes an exception for an abortion in an emergency situation, but it does not include any exceptions for an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape or incest.


Further, as reported by KMOV TV:

The approved version of the wide-ranging bill bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a “prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or 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.

And the bill was crafted with an eye toward the inevitable litigation:

“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.”

Thus, while it is likely the Alabama bill which just passed will also face a high profile legal challenge (as noted by my colleagues Mike Ford here and Joe Cunningham here), the Missouri bill approaches the challenge with a bit more subtlety.

Those here in Missouri who are pro-life awoke today to good news. As Senator Bill Eigel so eloquently expressed this morning:



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