Missouri Republican lawmakers are pushing a pair of bills that would allow for women to be charged with murder for getting an abortion in the state.
The pieces of legislation would give fetuses the same rights as human beings, which would allow for criminal charges to be filed against anyone who gets an abortion, helps someone get an abortion or provides abortion care in the state, which implemented a near-total ban on the procedure after last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Republicans state Sen. Mike Moon from Ash Grove and state Rep. Bob Titus from Billings pre-filed the bills last Friday ahead of next year’s legislative session, which begins next month.
The bills, both called the “Abolition of Abortion in Missouri Act,” do not state explicitly whether getting an abortion in another state would be illegal. While abortion is banned in Missouri in nearly all circumstances, the procedure is still available in bordering states Kansas and Illinois.
The bills do allow for a “duress” defense if a woman is charged with murder for getting an abortion. They also do not allow for criminal charges for “lawful” medical procedures performed by a doctor and if an abortion is performed to save the patient’s life or if a doctor accidentally aborts a fetus during a life-saving procedure.
The Republican-led bills come as abortion rights advocates in Missouri try to get a measure restoring some form of abortion on the state ballot in 2024.
The legislation indicates that some Missouri Republicans are pushing forward on expanding the state’s near-total ban on abortion in the next legislative session even as the ban has been criticized for ushering in a chaotic and uncertain era for women and doctors.
While Missouri remains staunchly conservative, abortion rights remain popular. Polling conducted last year by Saint Louis University and British pollster YouGov showed that a majority of Missourians were in favor of some level of legal abortion and disagreed with the state’s ban on abortion.
“While the mainstream anti-abortion movement tries to publicly distance themselves from the politically and socially unpopular insistence to criminally punish people for accessing abortion care, these bills are a stepping stone for a small fringe group of extremists to intentionally criminalize people seeking abortions,” said Mallory Schwarz, the executive director of Abortion Action Missouri.
Schwarz, in a statement, pointed to a group called Abolish Abortion Missouri, which she said was behind the bills. This group, she said, “is also the source of threatening harassment targeted at abortion patients, providers, and Abortion Action Missouri clinic escorts on a daily basis.”
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