Senate sends abortion bill back to House

One Senate amendment means the Missouri House will have to vote, again, on Rep. Jeanie Riddle’s bill requiring a doctor to be present when a woman takes an abortion pill like RU-486.

After spending more than an hour debating the bill before Tuesday’s mid-day break, the state Senate passed the bill in less than 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon, by a 23-7 margin.

Democrats cast all seven “no” votes.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some misunderstanding on House Bill 400 — but this is not a pro-choice versus pro-life type of bill,” said Senate sponsor Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau.

“This bill does not prohibit the use of any procedure now allowed under law. ... This is about patient protection.”

But near the end of the morning debate, Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said “We would love to see the number of abortions reduced in this state.

“I can think of no other area of medicine, at all, where we put the ‘standard of care’ in the statute,” she said.

Justus, a lawyer, said she would prefer to “let the medical profession do what they do best and — as long as abortion is legal in this country, which it is — doctors and women should be able to make those decisions on their own.”

As it passed the House, Riddle’s bill required the doctor’s physical presence when the abortion medication is administered, even though other medical procedures in the state can be done through “tele-health” with the doctor in a different location from the patient.

And Riddle’s House-passed bill also required the doctor to be present in-person when a second drug is administered and for a follow-up visit within 12-18 days.

Wallingford won the Senate’s approval of an amendment encouraging the doctor to schedule “a follow-up visit unless such termination of the pregnancy has already been confirmed and the patient’s medical condition has been assessed by a licensed physician prior to discharge” from the first proceeding.

The House will have to accept the Senate’s change — or ask for a conference committee — before the bill can be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The legislative session ends at 6 p.m. May 17.

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