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Mo. House gives 'personhood' measure initial approval

May 4, 2016 — The Missouri House on Tuesday voted 112-36 to give initial approval to a measure (HJR 98) that would extend state constitutional rights to fetuses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's "Political Fix" reports (Suntrup, "Political Fix," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/3).

Referendum details

The measure, proposed by state Rep. Mike Moon (R), would extend a provision in the state constitution that protects an individual's "right to life" to a fetus "at every stage of biological development." The measure does not include any exceptions for rape, incest or life endangerment (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/19).

According to "Political Fix," the proposal marks the third time Moon has introduced the resolution.

Next steps

The measure requires final approval from the state House before it can head to the state Senate ("Political Fix," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/3). If lawmakers pass the measure, state residents would vote on it on the Nov. 8 ballot. The measure does not need the governor's approval since it would amend the state constitution (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/19).

State lawmakers must act on the bill by May 13, the final day of the current legislative session.

Comments

Opponents noted that the measure would make abortion illegal in all instances, including when a woman's life is at risk as well as in cases of rape and incest (AP/KMBC, 5/3). In addition, opponents of the bill said the measure could bar the use of contraception in the state.

State Rep. Lauren Arthur (D) said, "This bill doesn't just take the issue over the edge of a cliff ... It rockets the issue into outer space" ("Political Fix," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/3).

Separately, Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, said the measure violates the U.S. Constitution. She noted it would likely be challenged in court if it became law.

According to AP/KMBC, efforts to grant state constitutional rights to fetuses have failed elsewhere. In North Dakota, voters in 2014 rejected a similar proposal, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that a 'personhood' ballot measure constituted an improper ban on abortion care (AP/KMBC, 5/3).