As the Nov. 6 general election approaches, the Jefferson City News Tribune is forwarding reader questions to area candidates for various offices.
Abortion has been a constant issue in American politics for at least the last 45 years, after the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 ruled women had a constitutional right to the procedure during the first six months of pregnancy. Those who oppose abortion have been working ever since to make abortions more difficult to get.
Reader Steve Cearlock asked: The state of Missouri has passed several abortion-related laws during the past few years. What are your feelings on the state's current abortion laws? And what, if anything, would you propose for the future?
Responses may have been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Senate District 6
In the order their names appear on the Nov. 6 election ballot, the candidates are Republican Mike Bernskoetter, Democrat Nicole Thompson and Libertarian Steven Wilson — all from the Jefferson City area. The district covers seven counties: Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Maries, Osage and Gasconade.
Bernskoetter: "I am 100 percent pro-life. During my eight years in the Missouri House, I have consistently voted to protect the unborn. I am proud to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by Missouri Right to Life. As your state senator, I will always make it my priority to protect innocent life."
Thompson: "I do not support Missouri's new abortion restrictions. They are an example of dishonest policy-making. The arguments (for) tougher restrictions, such as widening hallways and requiring hospital admission privileges, are made in the name of protecting women's health, but are designed to close women's health clinics providing abortion services. Missouri has some of the nation's highest maternal mortality rates. Creating laws designed to increase the challenges of finding care at a local clinic is not the way to reduce the number of abortions performed, which can be accomplished by focusing on providing women proper reproductive education and prenatal care."
Wilson: "I am not a man of half measures. Missouri abortion laws are feeble and weak. My interpretation of the non-aggression principle is simple: right to life for all. I am against abortion and the death penalty. The state has no right to commit murder at any stage of life."
Missouri House District 60
Dave Griffith, a Republican, and Sara Michael, a Democrat, are running for the Missouri House District 60 seat. The district includes most of Jefferson City with the exception of the southeast-most part of the city.
Griffith: "I am a pro-life advocate and support the current laws in Missouri regarding abortion. I believe there are alternatives to abortion, and I believe in protecting the life of the unborn. I have been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life."
Michael: "Thankfully, the rate of abortions in Missouri dropped 12 percent from 2011-14. I hope this trend has and will continue. Anyone who seeks any medical procedure should be afforded the presence of a licensed medical health provider and a facility that can adequately provide for their needs. I don't know what the future on this issue holds for our state or the nation, given the developing changes on the United States Supreme Court. I can only hope that whatever decisions are made, lives are protected."
Missouri House District 59
Rudy Veit, a Republican, and Linda Ellen Greeson, a Democrat, are running for the Missouri House District 59 seat. The district includes a portion of eastern Jefferson City, most of Cole County and a portion of northern Miller County.
Veit: "Because of the thoughtful approach our Legislature has taken, Missouri's laws on waiting periods and adequate medical facilities with regards to abortions are holding up to scrutiny by the courts. I believe courts as far up as the U.S. Supreme Court will continue to uphold states' rights to pass and enforce laws governing abortions and as your representative I will fight to take all steps necessary to prevent elective abortions. We must also provide assistance to women facing unplanned pregnancy through support by organizations that educate women about options. I have seen firsthand that education and support save lives."
Greeson: "State law defines abortion, illegal abortion, penalties for unlawful abortions, patient requirements and physician requirements. In Missouri, we're deciding how to 'treat the least of these among us' and care for those who can't care for themselves. Beyond birth, let's look at the little children who God gave breath to. How are we going to care for, feed, shelter and educate them? We need to stop de-funding Planned Parenthood under the pretense of stopping abortions in Missouri. De-funding hurts poor women by denying them health screenings, birth control and education classes about parenting, child birth and abstinence."
Missouri House District 49
Travis Fitzwater, the Republican incumbent, and Lisa Buhr, a Democrat, are running for the Missouri House of Representatives District 49 seat. House District 49 covers the southern half of Callaway County, including Fulton, Holts Summit, Kingdom City, New Bloomfield and Mokane, and a small portion of Cole County.
Fitzwater: "I'm proud to have voted in favor of requiring abortion providing facilities to accept more thorough inspections while encouraging the expansion of pregnancy resource centers, institute a 72-hour wait period for abortions, and other measures to protect the unborn. As a pro-life Republican, I believe that life begins at conception, that children in the womb have the same rights as every American, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Going forward, I will continue to adhere to these principles. I'm honored to be the only Missouri Right to Life-endorsed candidate in this race."
Buhr: "I believe in increasing access to birth control in order to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Missouri has made progress on this issue recently, and I am looking forward to continuing to work toward providing better access for women across the state."
Missouri House District 50
The candidates are Republican Sara Walsh and Democrat Michela Skelton, both from Ashland. District 50 covers northern Moniteau and southern Boone counties, as well as northwestern Cole County and a part of southeastern Cooper County.
Walsh: "I'm pro-life and endorsed by Missouri Right to Life. The Missouri Legislature has taken great strides in recent years to ensure the safety of women at abortion clinics. The law requiring an abortion doctor to have visiting privileges at a nearby hospital is common-sense as there's always a chance something could go wrong during the procedure. Another good law ensures abortion clinics must be constructed to be easily accessed by emergency crews. I applaud these laws, the legislators who passed them, and will continue to work to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used to perform or promote abortions."
Skelton: "I think most of the laws passed the last several years relating to abortion access have created high hurdles for women to access a constitutionally protected right to make health care choices with their doctors without any evidence the measures improve outcomes for women. About 50 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and about 43 percent of those end in abortion. If we make long-term reversible birth control free and easily accessible, we could repeat the Colorado program success and drastically reduce the number of abortions in the state by reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies."