Few abortion-related bills in a post-Roe Missouri

By Emma J. Murphy, Missouri News Network
Posted 5/9/23

JEFFERSON CITY — When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2022, trigger laws went into effect to ban or restrict abortion in many states, including Missouri.

The …

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Few abortion-related bills in a post-Roe Missouri


JEFFERSON CITY — When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2022, trigger laws went into effect to ban or restrict abortion in many states, including Missouri.

The legislature this session has seen attempts both to expand access to abortion in the state as well as further restrict and criminalize it. Legislation has also been proposed to attempt to ease the burdens of pregnancy on Missourians.

Groups opposed to abortion have said that they want to help protect women and children. But with the exception of a bill extending postpartum Medicaid benefits, little legislation has seen progress this session to act on these assertions.

In an exchange on the House floor last week about extending postpartum Medicaid benefits, Rep. Melanie Stinnett, R-Springfield, and Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, pointed to their pro-life beliefs as reason for supporting the bill.

“I believe this is the best investment we can be discussing here today,” said Kelly.

“We know when moms are healthy and children are healthy, families thrive,” Stinnett said.

Postpartum healthcare

Gov. Mike Parson has been sent legislation extending the Medicaid postpartum benefits after compromise legislation was approved by both the Senate and House.

Legislation to extend postpartum healthcare for mothers on Medicaid from 60 days to one year has been proposed session after session. The effort gained renewed attention this year with abortion access in Missouri so limited as a means of helping low-income women who are met with unexpected pregnancies.

Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, proposed her legislation, SB 45, this session. When the Senate debated the bill, an amendment was added with language that would prevent women who have received abortions from qualifying for the coverage. While the amendment caused debate in the Senate, it was removed by a House committee after discussion of the amendment’s potential consequences.

Opponents of the amendment argued that it would prevent women who have received abortions from qualifying for postpartum care on Medicaid as it prohibited anyone who “knowingly receives services that are in violation of state law” from accessing these benefits. Opponents also argued that the language was too broad and could apply to any violation of state law, including things like speeding tickets or jaywalking.

During debate on the House floor, over a dozen amendments were added to the bill which transformed it into a more general healthcare bill.

After the Senate declined to accept the House amendments, the bill went to a conference committee, which produced the final version sent to Parson.

Tax exemptions

Bills, such as one proposed by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, would allow parents to claim a fetus as a dependent eligible for a tax exemption.

Moon’s bill, SB 133, was heard by a Senate committee on Feb. 6. The bill would have allowed for a $1,200 exemption per fetus but has been modified to remove language regarding the “unborn.” It now allows a child to be claimed twice in the year of their birth for a “double exemption” of $2,400.

The bill is now part of a larger bill regarding taxation, with this specific tax exemption titled the “Unborn Child Deduction” in the bill summary. The bill has passed through the Senate and was altered by the House. It is currently awaiting final approval from the House before being sent back to the Senate.

“I like the change and it’ll do all that I wanted it to do. We’re taxed enough already,” said Moon. “Anything that will relieve parents expecting a child and give them a little more money to spend in whatever way they see fit. Hopefully that’ll take a little bit of the burden off financially.”

Bills such as these seem to be the beginning of a new wave of bills to “protect the unborn.” In Georgia, the state’s trigger law included a $3,000 tax deduction for fetuses that went into effect beginning with the 2022 tax year.

Abortion rights groups have voiced concerns over this type of bill regarding fetuses this session. Part of the unease is that this legislation could allow for greater control over pregnant people. To claim a fetus on tax forms could mean submitting medical records along with tax forms which raises concerns over privacy and the potential of the government tracking pregnancies.

Codifying the “personhood” of a fetus

Bills from MoonRep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson and Rep. Bob Titus, R-Billings, would enshrine the “personhood” of a fetus in the state’s constitution.

These bills would give a fetus the full rights and protections in the Missouri constitution that all Missouri residents have access to. The likelihood of these bills being passed this session is very low as none of these bills have been heard by a committee this session.

Another concern is that with this push to codify the “personhood” of a fetus comes broader repercussions in criminal, family and civil law. If a fetus were established as a person, would pregnant people be able to have their diets, travel or exercise restricted by a partner?

Tax cuts and credits

Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, also proposed a bill with a variety of tax cuts, including a grocery store and food pantry tax credit as well as a sales tax exemption for diapers and feminine hygiene products. Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, helped to add in some of these tax credits that could help pregnant Missourians.

The bill passed through the Senate and a House committee and will next move to the House floor for debate. After the House made alterations in committee, the bill will have to pass through the Senate again before heading to the governor’s desk to be signed — an unlikely scenario given the session ends Friday evening.

Arthur also sponsors a bill that would give taxpayers a credit for 75% of childcare provider’s costs. The bill is waiting for debate on the Senate floor after passing out of committee in March.

The Senate has been reluctant to pass further tax cuts and credits this session as the budget has not yet felt the effects of the most recent income tax cut.

Child support

Beck, D-Affton, has proposed a bill that would require the biological father of a fetus to pay child support and 50% of pregnancy-related costs also raises issues. Enforcement of these payments – as well as the tax exemptions – could be burdensome and difficult to enforce. The bill passed out of a Senate committee and still awaits floor debate.

“If women are forced to come to term with a baby, why should the biological father be off the hook,” said Beck.

According to Beck, the bill has been laid over and has a low chance of continuing to move forward.

Constitutional amendments

Senate Republicans like Moon and Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, have proposed amendments that would alter the state constitution to further limit access to abortions.

Eigel’s SJR 8 would prohibit funds from being appropriated to any clinic, office or association that provides abortions as well as any group that has affiliates that provide abortions. Under this legislation, Missouri’s Planned Parenthood locations would receive no funding because it has affiliates in other states that provide abortions even though the Missouri locations no longer do.

Moon’s bill, SJR 19, would prohibit any language in the Missouri Constitution “shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion.”

Neither of these bills have moved past committee hearings and have a low likelihood of seeing any further action this session.