Gov. Greitens calls for special session to address life issues

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Missouri lawmakers convened for a special session June 12 to consider pro-life legislation related to protections for pregnancy resource centers and proposals for health and safety standards in abortion clinics, among other issues.

A Senate committee on June 13 passed three bills — SB 1, 5 and 6 — which address a variety of issues, including pre-empting local governments from enacting laws that adversely affect legal rights of individuals based on their view of abortion, provide greater protections for pregnancy resource centers, further regulate abortion clinics, including whistleblower protections, and give the attorney general greater authority to enforce Missouri's abortion laws.

Those bills were expected to be heard by the full Senate on June 14. The House also was expected to hold committee hearings that day.

After calling for the special session, Greitens stopped at Our Lady's Inn June 8 to draw attention to the work of pregnancy care centers. "They take care of pregnant women and their newborn children, providing them with medical care, making sure that these kids get a great start in life, providing them with food, clothing, shelter," he said. "Oftentimes they will help women with job training, help them to complete their education."

Greitens said that pregnancy care centers have recently been under attack, citing examples including the St. Louis ordinance related to reproductive decisions and a judge's recent decision striking down regulations of abortion clinics in Missouri, making it urgent to call for a special session.

"It's important for us to protect life, to defend life and to promote a culture of life," he said. "With the special session ... we're going to be protecting our pregnancy care centers and proposing common sense health and safety standards for the people of Missouri. ... I have a responsibility to protect life, and I know how important this is, and that's our priority."

Greitens later held rallies in Springfield, Joplin and St. Charles, and attended a rally June 14 at the Missouri Capitol.

Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), sponsor of SB 1, said he is seeking to build a new regulatory framework for abortion clinics. In April, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood's challenge of laws that require abortion doctors to have local hospital privileges and abortion clinics be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is appealing the decision.

Abortion is a surgical procedure that "should be held to the same standards as other surgeries," he said. "We don't want a regulatory desert, and we can't wait until next year to work on that."

The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, was among those who applauded the governor's call for a special session.

"Protecting conscience rights of people of faith who do not wish to be complicit in the abortion industry is fundamental to our democracy," said conference executive director Mike Hoey. "It is also vital that clinics performing abortions uphold modern medical safety standards like any other outpatient clinic would. We appreciate the governor's call for an extraordinary session to bring the legislature back to Jefferson City to debate these important concerns."

Deacon Samuel Lee of Campaign Life Missouri said he is grateful the governor has called lawmakers back into session to consider pro-life measures. "I know many state legislators want to pass pro-life legislation and we're hopeful that they will get something to the governor's desk very soon," he said. "I'm grateful for all the pro-life advocates and the faithful who have been contacting their legislators since January to get legislation passed. That is really helping to spur this along."

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