Lawmakers approve tougher abortion drug rules

Doctors in Missouri would need to be in the room for the initial dose of the drug used in medical abortions under a measure given final legislative approval Monday.

Supporters said the requirement would help to protect women’s health and safety. But several critics said medical abortions are safe and that the legislation seems to be more of an effort aimed at restricting availability of abortion services.

Women seeking a medical abortion currently take a drug at the clinic. Women are given a dose of another medication to take at home, 24 to 48 hours later. Patients return for a follow-up visit about two weeks later. Under the legislation, the physician prescribing or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug would need to be present for the initial dose. The doctor or someone acting on his or her behalf would need to make a reasonable effort to ensure the woman returns for a follow-up visit, unless there is confirmation the pregnancy has been terminated and the patient’s medical condition has been assessed by a licensed doctor prior to discharge.

On Monday, the House voted 115-39 to give the measure final approval and send it to Gov. Jay Nixon. The legislation passed the Senate last week on a vote of 23-7, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposing it.

Sponsoring Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said there have been instances of complications after taking the abortion-inducing drug. Democratic critics said the legislation would interfere with women’s relationships with their doctors.

Limits on uninsured

driver lawsuits

The Missouri Senate has given final approval to legislation limiting the money that multi-vehicle accident victims could win in lawsuits if their own vehicles are uninsured.

The measure sent to the governor Monday would apply to cases in which an uninsured driver is injured by another motorist who does have insurance. In such cases, the injured driver could not receive money for non-economic damage claims brought in a lawsuit.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey calls the legislation a “commonsense measure” that puts some heft behind Missouri’s requirement to maintain liability insurance for vehicles.

The lawsuit limit would not apply if the motorist at fault was drunk or high or convicted of involuntary manslaughter or second-degree assault.

Veterans’ in-state tuition

Missouri lawmakers have approved legislation allowing veterans to qualify for lower, in-state tuition rates at public universities immediately after leaving the military.

The measure passed the House 155-0 on Monday following 31-0 approval in the Senate last week. It now heads to Nixon.

Missouri now requires students at public universities to live in the state for 12 consecutive months before claiming in-state tuition. They must also obtain a Missouri drivers’ license and earn at least $2,000 in Missouri during a 12-month period.

The legislation would require veterans with an honorable or general discharge to “demonstrate presence and declare residency” in Missouri before receiving in-state tuition. The Coordinating Board of Higher Education would come up with details for residency standards.

Foster care kids

re-enter system

Children leaving Missouri’s foster care system after their 18th birthday would be able to return to state custody under a bill sent to the governor.

The House passed the measure 150-9 on Monday. The Senate gave it unanimous approval earlier this year.

Missouri currently lets children remain in the foster care system until they’re 21 but prohibits re-entry if they leave after turning 18. The legislation would allow those children who leave the system to re-enter until they turn 21.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus, of Kansas City. She says it allows children to come back into the system if they have trouble in the “real world.”

Joplin disaster fund

Missouri lawmakers have approved a bill creating a $15 million fund to repair infrastructure in areas where the president has issued a disaster declaration.

The measure is meant chiefly to help Joplin rebuild street curbs and gutters damaged or destroyed in the May 2011 tornado. Lawmakers gave the bill final approval Monday.

The fund would be created with money diverted from other agencies and government offices, including $10 million from the state Insurance Department. It would also include $4 million from the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority, which provides financing to medical centers and schools.

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