Earlier this year, Missouri lawmakers passed a bill expanding the state’s current Women’s Right to Know law. Among other things, the new bill required that women be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound of their unborn child and that abortion facilities tell women that abortion ends the life of a “separate, unique, living human being.” Though he didn’t actually sign the bill, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon withheld his veto and allowed the bill to become law.
Yesterday, the National Catholic Reporter did a story highlighting this new law and what could be the next step in Missouri’s efforts to protect the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. It’s a good piece, worth a read, with quotes from MRL’s own legislative liaison, Susan Klein, but I do want to make one minor correction. Like most of the articles I’ve seen about the new law, it implies that this is the first time the State of Missouri has recognized human life as beginning at the moment of conception. In fact, Missouri Statute has defined human life as beginning at conception for over 20 years (1.205, RSMo, below) the new law just requires that this information be given to pregnant women seeing an abortion.
Life begins at conception–unborn child, defined–failure to provide prenatal care, no cause of action for.
1.205. 1. The general assembly of this state finds that:
(1) The life of each human being begins at conception;
(2) Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being;
(3) The natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn child.
2. Effective January 1, 1988, the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court and specific provisions to the contrary in the statutes and constitution of this state.
3. As used in this section, the term “unborn children” or “unborn child” shall include all unborn child or children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.
4. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.
The act that created this section was passed in 1986. The Supreme Court refused to rule it unconstitutional in 1989 (Webster v. Reproductive Health Services). Although, the Court did not find it constitutional either; it ruled that since abortion was not affected, it did not have to rule on it.
See more on current abortion laws in Missouri here.