January 27, 2023
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Legal experts say the proposed bill in Missouri would jeopardize the legality of emergency contraception.

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The proposed Missouri law would allow women to be prosecuted for abortions and would potentially criminalize certain types of birth control.

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A bill tentatively filed by Sen. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) this month would change the state’s definition of “human” to begin at conception, opening the door to criminal charges against people who terminate pregnancies or use birth control. prevent the development of fertilized eggs, say legal experts.

While the lawyers who spoke to RFT regard this proposal as a reckless application of criminal law, Moon says in his Senate Bill 356: “Missouri Abortion Abolition Act”, is a recognition of the sanctity of human life.

“I believe that science proves that life begins when a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm,” says Moon. “And so I think that life should be protected from the very beginning until natural death.”

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Moon’s bill has little chance of becoming law—thousands of bills are submitted every year, and few get through committee, let alone pass both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Senate. And Moon admits that he tried and failed to pass a similar bill at least three times before.

However, legal experts are concerned about the implications of his proposal in light of Missouri’s rapid passage of a so-called trigger law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. Rowe vs. Wade last June.

If passed, Moon’s bill could allow an abortion seeker to be prosecuted on a range of charges, from murder, attempted murder or assault to, for example, endangering a child’s welfare if the pregnant woman is found to have consumed alcohol. Marcia McCormick, professor of law at Saint Louis University.

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“Any time an egg doesn’t engraft, it could give the government the opportunity to at least investigate whether the failure to implant was intentional,” says McCormick. “If it was intentional, then perhaps there could be a charge of murder, because at that moment the “child”, being a fertilized egg, is destroyed.”

Sidney Watson, a professor at St. Louis University and an expert in health law, says she fears the bill will also affect contraceptives and IVF.

“This attempt to define life as the beginning of fertilization is, I think, some elected officials’ way of banning certain forms of contraception,” says Watson.

Some types of birth control, such as levonorgestrel, also known as the “morning-after pill,” and some forms of intrauterine devices, prevent pregnancy by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterine wall.

Although it is medically believed that pregnancy begins after implantation, GOP lawmakers in Missouri and other Republican-dominated states have tried in the past to ban the morning after pill for being “abortion pills.”

Missouri State Senate last year voted for ban Plan B and the Navy as part of the hospital tax resumption bill. measure has not progressed after women senators criticized the language. A revised version of the bill was later passed and prohibited the use of government dollars to purchase any “abortion drug or device”.

click to enlarge Republican Senator Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove)

DANNY WICENTOWSKY

Republican Senator Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) at an anti-abortion rally in St. Louis in 2021.

Pro-choice Missourians feared that contraceptives would be under threat once the federal right to abortion was repealed. According to Moon’s bill, McCormick says, “any contraceptive that works after the moment of fertilization can be considered a murder weapon.”

Moon disagrees.

In a phone call on Thursday, Moon said the bill was “not intended” to affect birth control. When asked how it’s possible when some form of birth control prevents implantation of fertilized eggs, Moon acknowledged that the bill “definitely could” affect birth control.

“The focus is on intentionally ending a child’s life,” Moon continued.

Moon groups condoms and IUDs as birth control separately from Plan B or the pill the next morning. When asked if Plan B would still be legal under his proposal, Moon replied, “I think there will be a lot of talk about it.”

According to Moon, Plan B “could very well be” an abortion if the egg was fertilized.

Moon’s bill also raises concerns about how violators will be prosecuted, McCormick says.

The bill lists five places where defendants can be prosecuted, from the county in which they preside to the county in which they commit the alleged crime. One particularly worries McCormick: The bill would allow prosecutors to try defendants in the county in which they were detained.

For McCormick, this could be interpreted as an attempt to accuse out-of-state Missourians of having abortions.

“It looks like they’re trying to get behavior that might not be illegal elsewhere, or get around prosecutors in Missouri who said they didn’t want to prosecute people for violating anti-abortion laws,” McCormick says.

Moon’s bill proposes several exceptions. A person will not be prosecuted if they are forced under physical threat to terminate a pregnancy. Another exception is for cases where a licensed physician performs a life-saving operation that results in the “accidental or unintentional” death of an unborn child, but only after all other options to save the child’s life have been exhausted or unavailable.

This exclusion confused Watson and McCormick. An ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus) can kill a pregnant woman if left untreated and the fertilized egg cannot survive. according to Mayo Clinic.

The termination of an ectopic pregnancy is not “unintentional or accidental,” says Watson. – You’re going to do it.

“It’s not entirely clear that people who are drafting bills like this understand how biology works,” McCormick adds.

Moon argues that an ectopic pregnancy may be an exception if the woman’s life is in danger. However, he points to a procedure he read about, in the early 1900s in Europe, cutting out part of a woman’s fallopian tube and successfully transferring the embryo into her uterus. (Moon supposedly meant 1917 medical journal article in which an American woman was reported to have undergone a similar procedure, although transplantation of an ectopic pregnancy widely considered to be medically impossible.)

McCormick hopes the bill will never pass, not only because of its criminal implications, but also because of the possible unforeseen consequences. If a fertilized egg is considered a person under the law, she could be covered by any government benefit program, she said.

Moon himself has little confidence that his bill will be approved.

“I don’t think there’s a majority in either house that wants to take on an issue of this magnitude,” Moon says, adding that voting for the bill might not be the most politically expedient move for his colleagues. “Unfortunately, it will take a monumental effort to make this pass.”

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