The Missouri House on Thursday passed controversial “personhood” legislation that opponents say could ban abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.
House members voted 110-37 to send the bill to the Senate.
If it wins approval before next week’s constitutionally mandated adjournment, voters would get to decide whether to add “unborn human children at every stage of biological development” to a state constitutional provision that protects the “right to life.”
But the bill now has only one week to clear a Senate committee and win approval of the full chamber. Democrats taking a prolonged stand against it could slow the Senate enough that Republicans could set it aside in order to push through other priority legislation.
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The bill’s detractors say the bill could not only ban abortion but could also ban most forms of birth control. It could also have implications, they contend, for infertility treatment and stem cell research.
Rep. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican who sponsored the “personhood” bill, compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion, to its 1857 Dred Scott ruling that concluded all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States.
“The court got it wrong with Dred Scott,” Moon said Thursday. “With Roe vs. Wade, the court got it wrong.”
In a news release announcing that the House would debate the legislation, Moon said opponents of abortion can’t remain silent any longer.
“The silence of those who want to protect the unborn is similar to the silence of Germans who stood by and allowed Jewish people to be slaughtered by the Nazis,” Moon said.
Even when pregnancy results from rape, abortion isn’t the answer, said Rep. Tila Hubrecht, a Stoddard County Republican.
“More violence is not the answer to a rape,” said Hubrecht, who earlier this week garnered national attention for referring to the birth of a child as a possible “silver lining” of a rape.
Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican, said the legislation could not ban anything permitted by the U.S. Constitution, and that includes abortion and birth control.
“What this does is put Missouri in a position to be the most pro-life state in the country,” he said, “as allowed by the federal constitution.”
Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, decried both the legislation and the rhetoric used by its supporters.
“Missouri women and families deserve leaders who fight to solve real problems,” she said, “not political gamesmanship and offensive comparisons to slavery and the Holocaust.”
North Dakota voters in 2014 rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have declared “the inalienable right to life of every human being at every stage of development must be recognized and protected.” That same year, voters in Colorado rejected a similar proposal.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that a proposal to grant “personhood” to human embryos would be an improper ban on abortion.
Jason Hancock of The Star contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.