Government & Politics

‘All life has value’: Missouri Gov. Parson says he’ll sign bill banning abortion soon

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told reporters Friday he would soon sign the bill that bans abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

The measure, which establishes sweeping restrictions on the procedure, was passed by the Missouri House hours earlier and requires only Parson’s signature to become law. The Missouri Senate passed the bill early Thursday.

Parson has until July 14 to either sign or veto.

The ban has no exceptions for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking. Physicians who perform abortions in Missouri would be sent to prison for a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years. There is no punishment for the mother.

Pressed by reporters on why he would feel comfortable signing a bill with no exceptions, he said:

“Look, I think all life has value to it, all life does. I’ve been clear about that all my career. I’m going to stand up for people who don’t have a voice. Everybody has a right to life.”

“I believe in a child’s right,” he said.

Just one Missouri Republican voted against the bill, taking issue with the absence of exemptions.

“(My constituents) think this is going too far,” Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, said.

Governors of Alabama and Georgia have recently signed similar laws that are meant to draw a challenge to return the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Activists hope a new conservative majority will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision affirming a woman’s right to an abortion without undue government interference.

As a fail-safe, if the eight-week ban is thrown out by the courts, the bill also bars abortion after 14 weeks, 18 weeks and then 20 weeks. Under this provision, if there is a medical emergency during the third trimester, physicians must attempt to save the child.

The measure also establishes criminal penalties for abortions sought solely because of a prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome in an unborn child.

The bill doubles the amount of medical malpractice insurance an abortion provider is required to have. Physicians who perform medication abortions must have something called “tail insurance”, which continues to cover them after they’ve retired or changed employers.

It also expands a tax credit for pregnancy resource centers, family planning entities that discourage abortions. Those who donate to the centers will be reimbursed by the state for up to 70 percent of their contribution, higher than the previous 50 percent rate. The bill eliminated the cap on the tax credit, though its current $2.5 million ceiling has never been reached.

Lastly, if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, Missouri law would automatically ban all abortions. Parson said he supports the reversal of Roe.

Despite the virtual certainty that he will sign, abortion rights supporters placed sticky notes outside his office imploring him to veto the bill.

The Missouri chapter of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists also urged a veto, decrying the criminalization of medical practice.

“HB 126 would force clinicians to decide between their patient’s needs and facing criminal proceedings,” the group said in a statement. “All clinicians must be able to practice medicine that is informed by their years of medical education, training, experience, and the available evidence, freely and without threat of criminal punishment.”

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Crystal Thomas covers Missouri politics for The Kansas City Star. An Illinois native and a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, she has experience covering state and local government.